Stay with your child for math!

Teaching Tip:

Math is a subject that needs to be taught.

For this tip, I’ll share something I’ve discovered the hard way. After 30+ years of teaching, I have come to realize math is one subject that needs to be taught. It is not meant to be a self-teaching subject that can be assigned to a student to do on his/her own.

What about using online lessons or video teachers for math?

Even with the aid of an online lesson or video teacher, ultimately with math there will be questions. There will be times when your child hits a stumbling block and needs help to go on. If you have no knowledge about what your child is working on, then the only way to help is to consult the answer key. At that point your child will quickly discover you can offer little help. This is because your child is fully able to check the answer key himself (and doesn’t really need you for that purpose). What he/she does need is the aid of a teacher who can explain the problem in a different way.

What can happen if you expect math to be a self-teaching subject?

With my oldest son, I was hit and miss in helping him with math. I changed math programs so many times looking for the ultimate self-teaching program! This only led to frustration for both my son and for me. In the end, he did manage to get through the needed math programs without me. However, it would have been far better and much less frustrating had I stayed the course with a math program. It also would have been better if I stayed with him to be able to help him along the way.

What are the benefits of staying with your child for math?

With our next three sons, who have varying math abilities, I have stayed with them for math. I quickly go over the textbook first. Then, I watch over them as they get underway on their assignments to be sure they’re started right. Last, I stay close while they work and help them through any frustrations. I have re-learned math along with my boys. What a different experience my next three boys have had with math, simply because of how I approached it!

Make staying with your child for math a priority!

I encourage you to make staying with your child for math a priority. This doesn’t mean you need to devote an hour to math per child per day. Instead, it means you should be there to teach 5-15 min. at the beginning of the lesson. Next, guide your student for another 5-10 minutes. Then, check-in closely while your child works. If you can’t find the time to be present for math, consider assigning another mathematical child in your family to help. Partner with your child to be successful in math. It will reap untold benefits whether your child is mathy or not!


Partner with students!

Teaching Tip: 

What is one of a teacher’s most important roles?

When you think of teaching, what roles automatically come to mind? Being a teacher is definitely about scheduling, planning, teaching lessons, guiding, directing, correcting, and student accountability. It is also about partnering with your students to help them accomplish needed goals. The partnering role is one that is easily overlooked in the “structure” of the daily plan. Today’s tip is a reminder that the partnering role may be our most important role of all!

What does it mean to “partner” with your students?

Partnering means being ready and willing to help in whatever way is needed for your kiddos to be successful. This means when students fall behind in their day, it is part of our job to jump in and help them catch up. Maybe they fell behind due to struggling with an assignment or a lack of understanding. Perhaps an assignment went longer than expected or the kiddos were just plain dawdling. No matter the reason they fell behind, partnering means our kids’ success is linked to us. So, if they are falling behind, we need to jump in and help.

What are some ways you can partner with your students?

One easy way to partner with your students is to do the English lesson orally. While you still cover the entire lesson, your students tell you the answers instead of writing them. Or, you could write part or all of the Drawn into the Heart of Reading Student Book assignment for your child. In this scenario, you act as the scribe to complete the Student Book page while your student tells you the answers. Another option is to write your child’s responses on a markerboard to be copied later (as copying is easier). Another easy way to partner with your students is to sit nearby while they complete an assignment. Often simply being available for immediate help is a huge partnering tool.

For math, you might have your child say the math answers while you write them in the textbook. For vocabulary, you could write the definition from the dictionary as your child reads it aloud. Then, your child could do the rest of the vocabulary card. You could get out books, open them to the right page, and put books away to speed along that process. Perhaps you partner by getting out needed supplies for a science experiment, or clean up when the experiment is over. Maybe you set up part of a history project so your child has no wasted time. However you choose to partner with your child, be sure none of these helps become habitual. Used only as needed, they can save the day and help save your child’s attitude too!

What is the difference between partnering with your child and skipping assignments?

Partnering with your child is not to be confused with skipping assignments. As you can see from the examples above, the assignments are still being completed. This is different from portions of the assignment being omitted or skipped altogether. This week give yourself permission to partner with your child. See if you notice a positive change in your homeschool day!


There are few “normal” days of homeschooling.

Teaching Tip: 

There are few “normal” days of homeschooling.

One thing I am discovering as I am getting older is there are few “normal” days of homeschooling. Life is often filled with unexpected surprises. The further we travel down life’s path, health and medical issues are bound to crop up. Issues may arise within our own families, our extended families, or both. This is just a part of living in a sinful world where our bodies break down with the passing of time. What a glorious blessing that the earth is not our eternal home and our bodies will one day be made new again!

Let your HOD guide be a help during uncertain times.

With the fragility of health in mind, it is a huge blessing the HOD guides have all your planning done. I am thankful the guides are truly open-and-go. Over the past year, we have really put the open-and-go claim to the test! Our son Greyson struggled with his health and was in and out of the hospital 160+ days. Since we never knew when we would have to head to the hospital, often there was no time to prepare. With the specialty hospital 4 hours away, we had a myriad of teachers come and go to help at home. Both grandmas took a turn teaching. Our older sons alternated teaching with working on their college classes. Some days my sister taught our youngest son along with her own boys. Many days we had to have our sons do as much as they could on their own. Upon our return, we picked up where the other teachers left off and jumped right back in. Even with all sorts of teachers popping in to do different parts, we went forward with our HOD guides in hand. The guides were a constant “normal” in our ever-changing days.

What should you do if a situation of duress arises?

So, what should you do when a situation of duress arises? If the situation is short lived, it makes sense to downshift and do whatever you must. If the situation is longer term, the advice we most often hear is to shift down to doing only the 3R’s. Yet, doing only the 3R’s leaves a houseful of kids who still need something to do all day. So in our situation, we decided to go forward with our HOD guides even if we were limping through. Of course there are extreme situations, where downshifting to the basics makes sense. Just be sure to watch so this doesn’t become the norm.

Let your HOD guide provide needed structure to your days.

In times of duress, let the pattern of the HOD guides give your school days some normalcy. Your kids will recognize and take comfort in the pattern, even if you aren’t there. Don’t spend precious time thinking of how to cut back, shift, change, add, adapt, or subtract from the HOD guide. Instead, just teach the guide “as is” and progress steadily forward day by day. Let the guide provide needed structure in the good times and the tough times. Try it, and you may find (as I have) that you are actually relieved to have the guides drive your days.


Take time to set priorities!

Teaching Tip: 

Take time to prioritize.

Today’s teaching tip is all about priorities. If you’re like me, you might get a bit overwhelmed with the tasks that lie ahead in the coming school year. This is why it helps to set priorities before your year begins.

Define your main priorities for each child.

As you look at each child, define your main priorities for that child for the upcoming year. This isn’t as difficult as it sounds! Simply ask yourself which areas each child needs to work on the most. Then, pick one to three areas to focus on for the upcoming year.

What are some areas where a child might need help?

Through the years we’ve had a variety of areas in which our boys needed work. Sometimes we had a child who needed to strengthen reading skills. Other times a child needed work on math facts or being neater in math. Some years we focused on legibility in handwriting. Other years we focused on character issues. At times a child really needed to gain independence. Or, maybe studied dictation was an area needing attention. There were years where we needed to do better on projects and following directions. These are just a few areas we’ve worked on over the years. Hopefully, this list will get you thinking of areas where your child needs work.

Make a plan for how to focus on your priorities.

Once you’ve decided a few key areas where each child needs work, make a plan for how to focus on those areas. This can be as simple as committing to be by your child’s side as he/she works on a difficult subject. It can mean allowing an extra 10 minutes a day in your schedule to oversee or teach a tough area. Making it a goal to check your child’s work daily in a specific area is another way to achieve your priorities. Being willing to pause what you are doing to deal with character issues might be an option. Assigning a child who is strong in a subject to work with a child who is weak in that subject is another solution.

Be careful not to over-emphasize your priorities.

It is easy to think we need to major on our areas of priority. For example, if spelling is a priority, you may be tempted to rush out and buy a rigorous spelling program. Yet, the solution could be as simple as committing to doing studied dictation daily from the HOD guide. As you consider solutions, be sure not to add more work to what is already in the HOD guide. Otherwise, you will just add time to your day and neglect other key areas. Instead, let your HOD guide work for you!

Use your HOD guide as a tool to help you accomplish your priorities.

As you look at accomplishing your priorities, use your HOD guide as a tool to help you. Focus on a few key areas that will aid you in accomplishing your priorities. Maybe your child needs to read a certain assignment box aloud to you daily to focus on following directions. Perhaps your artistic older child does the projects with your less artistic younger child. Maybe you focus on legibility in handwriting every time a written narration comes up. Perhaps you work on independence in one key box of plans first and build on that. Or, maybe you commit to being present and helping with math.

Work on your priorities briefly each day.

Simply pick one or two times a day to work briefly on your priorities. Brief consistent work pays off. Try it and see if setting priorities helps you! You may be pleasantly surprised.


Prepare for the school year by reading the guide’s “Introduction”!

Teaching Tip

Reading the guide’s “Introduction” is great preparation for the school year.

You may be beginning to turn your thoughts toward school. One of the best ways to prepare for the upcoming year is to read through your HOD guide’s “Introduction.” There is such a wealth of information in the “Introduction” that we should truly title it something else!

How does reading the “Introduction” help prepare you for the year?

The “Introduction” will give you a feel for how each area is handled in the guide and the goals for each subject. It will let you know what notebooks, binders, etc. are needed for each subject area. Reading the “Introduction” provides a great summary of what to expect for the coming year. The “Introduction” is the last part of the guide we write. In this way, we can be sure that it truly summarizes needed information for you in one place!

If you have students in different HOD guides, read only one guide’s “Introduction” each day.

If you will be teaching more than one Heart of Dakota guide, read the “Introduction” for different guides on different days. This will help you focus on one guide at a time and will keep you from getting overwhelmed.

Can you use the guide without reading the “Introduction?”

Of course you can skip reading the “Introduction” and just jump right in and teach. However, often when families do this they miss the big picture of the guide. They also miss out on some gems that are referred to in the “Introduction” and included in the Appendix.

So, let’s get started!

After more than 15 years of homeschooling my boys with HOD, I still read the “Introduction” at the start of my school year! So, grab a cup of tea or coffee, cuddle up with your highlighter, and read away. Just reading the “Introduction” will make you feel more prepared!


Top Ten Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides