Preschool with Heart of Dakota: Complete, Christian, Short, and Fun

From Our House to Yours

Little Hands to Heaven – a great preschool whether you’re just starting out or finishing strong!

Preschool with Heart of Dakota’s   Little Hands to Heaven is complete, Christian, short, and fun.  What could be better for this exciting time?!? Our little ones are full of life and energy, and they are raring to go!  As homeschool moms, we may be at the start of our homeschooling and raring to go too, dreaming about homeschooling our first precious blessing from God.

Or, we may be somewhere in the middle of our homeschooling. Realistically, multiple children with many needs can lessen the excitement of beginning to homeschool another little one.  It can be tempting to always focus on the oldest, who is forever entering new and exciting stages.  Especially if our own education was less than satisfying (which let’s face it, for most of us homeschool moms, it probably was).  We begin to love learning alongside our oldest child, and beginning to teach another little one can become, well, less exciting. In short, though we love each little blessing the same with all of our mama’s heart, we may be weary.

Well, wherever you are in your homeschool journey, if you have a preschool aged child, I want to encourage you! Little Hands to Heaven for preschool truly is a doable blessing. Each week I’d like to focus on a new guide in this blog series. So, let’s start with preschool first, and each week, let’s ‘grow up’ a guide at a time together!

Letter Activity Fun
Do you long for something more meaningful than just letters… letters… letters… numbers… numbers… numbers… for PreK?

Everything you want your preschool to include is already a part of Little Hands to Heaven!  I like it because it reminds me of a mini-kindergarten.  Many other preschool programs only focus on letters and numbers… the whole year.  Don’t get me wrong!  Letter recognition, letter formation, letter sounds, and early math skills ARE important, and they are a part of Little Hands.  However, that can get a little dry day after day, for both you and your little one. In contrast, Little Hands… adds pizazz with a mini-version of Kindergarten subjects like history, art, Bible, devotions, and music.

Bible Activity Connection

Furthermore, Little Hands… has history – BIBLE history!  What can be better than that?  It’s Christian. It’s chronological. Moreover, it’s inspiring.  Finally, it’s planting seeds that are hopefully sown upon fertile ground.  It keeps Christ front and center from the start, and the Bible history theme each week connects all the skills being taught.  Pretty memorable!  Which is exactly what we want for our little ones.  Skills meets retention meets the Lord.  A winning combination!  Not to mention, all the get-up-and-move parts of the plans! Dramatic plays, active exploration, fingerplays, art projects – your little one needs to move, and Little Hands… has that covered!

Dramatic Play
Okay, so to recap, let’s check out Little Hand’s… complete line-up below:
  • letter recognition, letter formation, letter sounds and motions
  • early math skills
  • Bible history and activities
  • devotional topics
  • art projects
  • dramatic plays
  • active exploration (science/health topics)
  • fingerplays
  • music
Fine Motor Skills and Letter Review
So, now you may be wondering, with all these great skills, will you have the time to teach Little Hands…? 

The answer is definitely ‘yes!’ No matter what stage of life you are in! Twenty-five to thirty minutes.  That’s all!  Your preschooler will demand that much attention anyway.  Why not give it in a planned, well-balanced, meaningful way?  You young, new homeschool moms may be saying, “Hmmmm.  I’m not sure that’s enough time.”  You seasoned, veteran homeschool moms may be saying, “Hmmmm. I’m not sure that I have enough time.”

Well, young moms, it is enough, and the good news is, you can add in other fun things if you want – like walks in the park, picnics in the backyard, or read-alouds and field trips galore. Veteran moms, you do have the time, and it will erase the guilt of not spending quality time alone with your little one.  And if you truly don’t have the time, an older child can enjoy teaching Little Hands… to a younger sibling, and you can come in on the parts you care most about!

Making a Color Book with Older Brother
Added benefits -you don’t need to plan ahead, leave your home, start a certain time of year, or buy extra things to do Little Hands!

Open-and-go.  Get up and teach!  Did you get to bed late caring for everybody but yourself?  Was there little sleep for you last night because you were up with a sick child… up tossing and turning… up because you aren’t feeling well yourself?  Is it November, and you wanted to start something with your little one in August but haven’t? Well, grab some coffee, stumble out of bed, and open that guide.  That’s all there is to it.  Buy one Little Hands… package. You have what you need… and it won’t cost you much… and you can reuse it.  Plus, the plans are not attached to holidays, seasons, or months.  So, anytime is a good time to start Little Hands!

One more surprising bonus – you actually get to be ‘fun mom!’

These are my sons’ words, not mine.  Let’s just be clear, when I was fun and young, I wasn’t so fun. I was trying to prove myself to all those people who thought homeschooling might not be ‘enough,’ and I prodded… quizzed… questioned… my poor oldest son too much.  Still, he thought when we did Little Hands… I was ‘fun mom’ – thank you, Lord!

Then, when there were health concerns for me and for my family when I began homeschooling my middle son, again, NOT ‘fun mom.’  Still, somehow when we did Little Hands… I was ‘fun mom’ again – who knew?!?

And then when I began homeschooling my last son, I was sure ‘fun mom’ was seriously out of commission.  I was weary, gals.  Somehow, miraculously, ‘fun mom’ reappeared apparently!  I know, because my son called our Little Hands… ‘playschool,’ not preschool.  And he brought his Little Hands… guide to me begging to do ‘playschool.’  New mercies… never-failing.  Turns out being ‘fun mom’ was awesome!  Often in the midst of some not-so-fun-things in life.

Fun Follow-up Activities That Use Whatever You Have on Hand

So, there you have it!  I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Little Hands to Heaven!  Next time, I’ll introduce you to Little Hearts for His Glory! In the meantime, enjoy checking out the printable Introduction and first week of plans of Little Hands, as well as some of our most common questions!

In Christ,

Julie

Seven Time Saving Tips for Multiple Read Alouds in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

We all love, love, love the Charlotte Mason living book read alouds!  But, what if you have multiple read-alouds and not much time due to some difficulty going on in your life?

Our children are each more than 3 years apart and very different in skills and maturity.  Consequently, they place in 3 different Heart of Dakota guides.  We’ve actually loved using multiple guides because each child thrives and is appropriately placed.  Therefore, there is no tweaking, no skipping, no comparing, and no supplementing. Little ones are finished earlier and have less independence.  Older ones have longer school days and more independence. Likewise, skills are appropriate for their ages and materials are appropriate content and maturity-wise. However, if you happen to have many children placed in different younger guides who cannot read, you will have multiple read-alouds.  I’m thinking of helping you dear ladies when I write this blog. So, the subject of this blog will be 7 time saving tips for multiple read alouds!

First Tip: If you have older students who can read well, make sure they are doing the reading for all the “I” boxes of their plans.

Starting in Resurrection to Reformation, the Storytime part of the plans can be either “T” teacher-directed with the parent doing the reading, or “I” independent with the student taking over the reading (as long as they are able).  We have found our kiddos enjoy reading it on their own at this point anyway, so that would be a first suggestion if you have older students. Or, if you can’t bear to let go of this, set a timer for 10 minutes.  Read aloud until it rings, and then your older student can finish the reading independently. Then, you can just do the short Storytime follow-up with them.

Second Tip: If you have older kiddos, have them take a turn reading to the youngers.

If you are using several younger guides with multiple read-alouds, and you have older students as well, try having those older students take a turn reading aloud – our younger sons have loved this! They can cuddle up on the couch, choose a reading corner, or have a cup of hot cocoa together.  The books are amazing in Heart of Dakota already, and often times older kiddos enjoy rereading books they’ve had read to them before!

Wyatt Reading Traveling the Way to Emmett for Creation to Christ’s Storytime
Third Tip:  Look to your extended family members for help!

Family members can often see when you are going through a tougher time in life and want to help but don’t know how!  A family member (husband, mother, father, mother-in-law, father-in-law, older child, aunt, uncle, etc.) can easily help by reading aloud a chapter a day in a recording device.  We gave a book or two to multiple family members and had them record a chapter read aloud at a time, and then we had them for years to come to be enjoyed!  Now that my father as passed away, these recorded read-alouds are especially precious, and they saved me some time when I needed it! I know Mike’s mother recorded read-alouds of her reading a set of Storytime books each summer for the Austin’s sons.  Those read-alouds are also precious, and the recordings have been put to good use for many years!

Our mom has read aloud to all 7 sons/nephews through the years!
Fourth Tip:  Choose a time of your convenience to record yourself reading a chapter each day.

Sometimes it is just more convenient to read aloud a chapter a different time of day than you are homeschooling!  Our phones are easy recording devices these days, so why not record yourself reading a chapter each day from one of the multiple read-alouds at a time of your convenience? I spend a fair share of time waiting, how about you?  Waiting for appointments.  More waiting in my car for my kiddos.  Still more waiting for someone running a little late. Why not use that time to record yourself reading a chapter? All you need is a Storytime book and your phone. I’d do this for the oldest child’s read-alouds first, as you can then use it again when your younger child does that guide!

Fifth Tip: Try moving one of the multiple read-alouds to bedtime. 

This is great to do for a younger child, as often times reading a book before bed is a fun, cuddle time that is a wind-down for sleeping well! Often times families are doing this anyway.  Why not read aloud one of the living books in your Heart of Dakota plans?  Just be sure to have the guide nearby and do the short follow-up, and doing it at night is easy-peasy!

Sixth Tip: See what books you can order on audio or on audible!

Many books are now available on audio or on audible. However, one very important caution for this time saving tip…make sure your child still has the book and is following along in it! This is important for building reading comprehension skills and vocabulary.  It may be tempting to just have kiddos listen to books, but Charlotte Mason would not have been a proponent of this.  Real books held in one’s hand foster connections not made otherwise. We found some used cassettes of books online one year and just used a tape player. I know this is old school, but this was inexpensive and while it was not as much my favorite as me reading the books aloud or a family member, it really helped me through that busy, busy year when I had many doctor’s appointments for my newborn!!!

Seventh Tip: Start recording yourself as you read aloud to your oldest during the homeschool day.

You’re already reading aloud!  Why not just record yourself doing it?  Sure, it may not be perfect.  The baby may cry in the background.  A phone or doorbell may ring.  That’s ok!  As long as it’s clear enough, it’s good enough.  Just put some gusto into your reading.  I’ve found it often drowns out the worst of background noise. You may as well start this with the oldest child, so the youngers can enjoy the readings later.  Who knows?  They may be as precious one day to your children as my dad’s recorded readings are to me today!!!

Wonderful memories of my Dad here with my son, Wyatt, and my sister, Carrie!!!

I hope this gives you some practical time saving tips for multiple read- alouds!  The summer is often a perfect time to try some of these tips – especially if you want family members to help!  So, why not give one of these time saving tips a try this homeschool year?

In Christ,

Julie

Habit Training That Helps the Homeschool Year Go Better

From Our House to Yours

Habit training during breaks can help the homeschool year go better!

Charlotte Mason was an advocate of habit training!  We have found breaks during our homeschool year offer the perfect time to habit train. During breaks, our kiddos can focus on learning one good habit a time. This attention to habit training  makes our homeschool year with Heart of Dakota go even better!

Here are a few of my favorite Charlotte Mason quotes that inspire habit training!

“Every day, every hour, the parents are either passively or actively forming those habits in their children upon which, more than upon anything else, future character and conduct depend.”  (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 118)

“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” (Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 123)

What habit training for a toddler would help the homeschool year go better?

Toddlers are notoriously ‘everywhere’ and into ‘everything!’  So, one worthwhile habit to train toddlers to have is an independent playtime in a designated, child-proof area.  A blanket in a child-proofed room, a playpen in a safe area, or a gated child-proofed area of the house are examples of good areas to train toddlers to have a playtime.  Once you have child-proofed an area, you can choose a basket of things that will keep their attention.  This basket might include board books, stuffed animals, blocks, balls, etc.  All items should be safe for kiddos to use (or throw) on their own. Toddlers can start with 15 minutes and work up to 20 or 30 minutes.  You can play Christian music or a homemade ‘mommy tape’ in the background.

What habit training for 3 to 6 year olds would help the homeschool year go better?

My favorite habit to train my 4 to 6 year olds to do for an independent playtime was learning stations.  To read my blog post about learning stations, click here!

What habit training for individual chores for children of all ages would help the homeschool year go better?

Chores are part of the homeschool environment, and your children can be your best help!  A break in homeschooling is a wonderful time to habit train children to help with chores.  It is best to focus on one chore at a time.  Each child can have a chore he/she is responsible for in a routine way each day. You may want one child to consolidate and take out the trash each day.  Another child can unload the dishwasher.  Still another child can feed the pets. Whatever chores are assigned, be sure to have the same child responsible for them each day.  That will help them to become a good habit!  You can change them in a year or so, but you may find (as I have) that they want to keep their chores the next year.  They’ve become good at them!

What habit training tasks can be completed together as a family?

You can also work on one overall chore as a family, and assign each child a part of that overall chore.  For example, you could assign each child a task to complete when cleaning up after a meal.  We have our youngest son clear the table. He sets the dirty dishes on the counter near the sink and puts away anything simple that has to go in the fridge or in the cupboard (i.e. ketchup bottle, honey, salt/pepper, etc.).  I put any leftovers in containers in the fridge and scrape anything on plates in the garbage.

My oldest son rinses the dishes for the dishwasher and washes any large pots/pans.  My middle son takes the rinsed dishes and loads them in the dishwasher. He also dries the pots and pans and puts them back in the cupboards.  Meanwhile, my youngest son vacuums the kitchen.  To finish, my middle son wipes off the table.  This all takes place very quickly and efficiently, as we have done this for years!

I hope this gives you some ideas for habit training for your kiddos during breaks!  Having habits in place such as these makes the homeschool year so much more enjoyable!

In Christ,
Julie

P.S. For more about habit training little ones by Carrie, click here!

P.S.S.  For more about habit training kiddos to have scheduled playtimes, click here!

 

A Typical Day Running 3 Heart of Dakota Guides

From Our House to Yours

Creation to Christ’s “Reading About History” part of the plans is fascinating!
Creation to Christ - Unit 12 - The Divided Kingdom
Creation to Christ – Unit 12 – The Divided Kingdom

In Creation to Christ Emmett has been learning about the ancients time of King Solomon and the time of the divided kingdom. He researched Solomon’s Temple online and answered questions about where it was built, how long it took to build, the materials used, the outside/inside of the temple, what Solomon did when the temple was complete, and how we know the Lord was pleased with its completion.

Creation to Christ’s 3-Day “History Projects” are so much fun!
ten white pockets for the tribes of Israel and two blue pockets for the tribes of Judah

His history project pictured above shows the division of the 12 tribes of Israel. While Solomon originally ruled all 12 tribes, due to his worshiping other pagan gods (as well as Israel), the resulting punishment was his kingdom being torn away from him. Ten tribes were given to Jeroboam, and two tribes were given to Rehoboam. Emmett made ten white pockets for the tribes of Israel and two blue pockets for the tribes of Judah. He then tore a piece of cloth into 12 pieces, just as the prophet Ahijah did with his robe, to signify the dividing of the kingdom. Each pocket has a piece of the robe in it. What a neat project and a memorable way to retain this part of ancient history!

You can also see Emmett Heart of Dakota history notebook pictured above, which shows his timeline entries, historical written narration, meaningful copywork from a history living book, and independent history assignment.

Creation to Christ’s poetry by Robert Frost and watercolor painting is a great combination!
Robert Frost's poem
Water color painting of Robert Frost’s poem “Going for Water”.

A few other highlights of the week were his watercolor painting of a night sky with the moon rising for Robert Frost’s poem Going for Water and his science experiment showing how a dinosaur moved for his Land Animals… science reading. He decided he’s very thankful he is not a dinosaur and can simply walk and run on 2 legs!

 

World Geography and World Religions and Cultures are two studies that complement each other very well!
He also made matzah, which is unleavened bread

In World Geography Riley finished his history theme for Unit 12 and started Unit 13. He really enjoyed his assignment in Mapping the World with Art. He drew and colored his own Medieval/Renaissance compass rose. He read about explorers, such as Diaz from Portugal, who used a magnetic compass such as this to navigate the southern coast of Africa. He also made matzah, which is unleavened bread in response to his World Religion and Culture’s reading. It was good the first time, but the second day, we were all happy to go back to our homemade leavened bread!

World Geography’s 1/2 credit Logic elective has been fascinating!
. . . knowing fact from fallacy is important!

Riley has absolutely loved his Fallacy Detective book. He said he was sad it was the last reading. As this is an elective, I often let him check his own answers with the answer key and just meet with me to informally share what he’d learned or what struck him the most from the day’s reading/assignment. He always had something clever or witty to share, and he often shares examples of logic he’s seen in billboards, commercials, or magazines. What a neat elective to do – and an important one, as knowing fact from fallacy is important! Finally, he worked on his English assignment, and I stressed the important of writing neatly.

US II teaches our boys how to prepare talking points just as if they were to give a press conference!
Bismarck the German Navy ship

In USII High School Wyatt finished Unit 18 and started Unit 19. On an index card, he prepared a list of talking points for his oral narration. He spoke about Britain standing alone against Hitler, Hitler’s plans for the Soviet Union, Bismarck the German Navy ship, and FDR’s promise to help Britain. He also used his USII Notebook as a visual aid by sharing the drawing of the Loss of H.M.S. Hood.

 

USII’s full-color notebook pages are a great way to organize each week’s studies!
The Dawn of World War II

The full-color Heart of Dakota notebooks are so beautiful and add much learning to Wyatt’s school day. The photographs, charts, portraits, political cartoons, maps, etc. you see pictured all provided a visual basis for his topic oral narration. I love to listen to Wyatt narrate! It is obvious he enjoys history, remembers what he has read, and gives a very ‘narrative’ narration – in other words, I think he’s become an excellent storyteller! Just what Charlotte Mason would have liked! Wyatt also worked on his Economics elective and his Algebra, which you can see in the pictures.

I hope that this snapshot of a typical day running 3 Heart of Dakota guides is a blessing to all of you amazing moms who are doing so much to make your children’s lives all that they can be!

In Christ,

Julie

Graduation for Homeschool Students

From Our House to Yours

Our oldest son is 18 years old and just completed his last Heart of Dakota guide!  It is hard to believe he is graduating.  He has done every HOD guide from PreK through 12th grade, and the years have truly flown by.  We are so proud of him!  Homeschool graduations can be celebrated many different ways. To show one way, I thought for this post I would share some of the things we are doing for graduation.

Take pictures earlier in the year if you can!

Last October a good friend of ours took Wyatt’s pictures for graduation. Fall is a beautiful time of year here.  I knew we’d be crazy busy this spring, so taking the pictures ahead of time really helped.  Our friend just took pictures on her camera different places around where we live.  God’s creation is always a beautiful backdrop!

We picked one dressy outfit and two casual outfits.  I tried to stick with a similar color scheme. I washed, pressed, and set aside the clothes.  We told our friend to just give us at least a few hours’ notice for when she thought the pictures would be good to take.  This is something we can do when we are homeschooling, right?!? Having our son’s senior pictures taken ahead of time allowed me to be able to make the invitations for our open house ahead of time on Shutterfly.  So, all I had to do was fill in the date of our open house later.  My son chose his favorite photos for the invitations and picked a Bible verse for them. Easy peasy!

Choose a date that is different from the dates of public and private school graduations!

We picked a different open house date than local public and private high school’s dates.  We can choose any date for our graduation!  I love the flexibility of homeschooling! Visiting with family and close friends, we picked the date and time that worked best. Choosing a date other than the typical graduation gatherings helps family and friends be more able to attend.

Choose a place that can be set up ahead of time if possible!

We have chosen our garage for an  informal outdoor graduation open house.  This is common where we live, as summers are lovely, and we live on an acreage!  Plus, it gives us a great reason to clean the garage, right?!? I don’t know about your garage, but ours could use a reason for a good cleaning!  We’ve borrowed tables and chairs from my husband’s workplace.

Choose simple table decorations that can be reused for your other children who will be graduating someday!

As we live in the country, we have chosen red gingham tablecloths.  I don’t have to spend much money on them, and I can reuse them. Each 6 foot table will have ball canning jars with Wyatt’s favorite snacks – cashews and M & M’s!  I’ve made a family photobook each year for my husband for Christmas, so I’m setting a different photobook on each table too.  There are many pictures of Wyatt with our family growing up, and I think this could be a good conversation piece!

I’m also planning on having a card table with red gingham tablecloth and with a premade poster for people to sign for Wyatt.  They can write comments as well here, and I think it will be a neat keepsake of the party for him.  I’m putting a red geranium on this table as well (thanks mom for that wonderful idea)!  I’m also going to put his baby photobook on this table.  Finally, the backdrop leaning against the wall will be a metal art wall hanging I made for him with all his senior pictures.  This can hang on the wall in his bedroom after the party (thanks Carrie for this awesome idea)!

Choose food that won’t prevent you from visiting with guests!

I love to cook and to bake!  However, I don’t want to be consumed with this so much leading up to the graduation or during the graduation.  I want to be able to visit with family and friends and be there for Wyatt.  So, we are making pulled pork ahead of time and putting it in crock pots for sandwiches.  We are also putting baked beans in crock pots.  Premade potato salad, chips and dip, coleslaw (thanks Cindy for this idea), and 2 kinds of layered cake from Costco will round out the menu.  Lemonade, coffee (good idea, mom), and water bottles will be available as well.

I hope this has given all of you amazing moms some ideas to simplify graduation for your homeschool senior!  What a blessing to be able to celebrate ‘pressing on toward the goal to win the prize‘ with our graduating teens!!!  God bless!

In Christ,

Julie