Valentine’s Day Fun – Why Do You “Heart” Heart of Dakota?

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Valentine’s Day Fun – Why do you “heart” Heart of Dakota?

Happy Valentine’s Day to our fellow Heart of Dakota moms! We thought this would be fun to do, a kind of “count our blessings” for Valentine’s Day if you will. And who better to do this with than all of you?!? So here goes…

Why I “heart” Heart of Dakota…

1. I love Heart of Dakota because it helps me keep my priorities straight. A quality education is highly valued by our family, and to us that includes educating the heart as well as the mind. Heart of Dakota does both!

2. Our children use excellent living books every single day, but they use their Bibles every single day too. Providing a rich diet of literature that makes learning come alive is important in our homeschool. Heart of Dakota has chosen outstanding living books for virtually every area of learning. From history to science, from reading to devotions, our day is filled with books we love.

3. We have three sons, so another goal of ours is for our sons to be able to provide well for their own families someday, which means they need to be competitive when it comes to earning a salary. Heart of Dakota is giving our children an incredibly strong education that is preparing them well for their future.

4. Finally, we want to have a happy homeschooling environment, which means I need to be able to school in a timely fashion, in an enjoyable way, and in a manner that doesn’t require me to leave the home. Heart of Dakota’s guides are a treasure to me. They are truly open and go, and they help me organize my day in a balanced way that allows us to get the maximum benefit out of our homeschooling time together.

I still love what I do!

I’ve been teaching Heart of Dakota for 16 years, and I still love what I do. Charlotte Mason said education should be three things…

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

With Heart of Dakota, I have all three! What can be better that that?!? I can’t wait to read why you “heart” Heart of Dakota!

Love in Christ to all our favorite Heart of Dakota ladies this 2018 Valentine’s Day!!!


PS – If you wanted to stroll down memory lane, you may also want to check out this link to our Heart of Dakota message board where I posted this same question back in 2011.


Welcome to Our Blog!

Welcome to Our Blog!

In the past 20 years, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting with thousands of families at homeschool conventions, on the phone, on our message board, and through emails and Facebook. The question we are most often asked is, “What are you going to write next?” For years, the answer was “the next guide,” but now that Carrie has written guides that span PreK through 12th grade, the answer to that question is “this blog!”

So what is “this blog” you ask?

Well, it is an inspirational collection of stories, personal experiences, life lessons, and tips to help moms look at their homeschooling work and lives in a new light. These lessons come from our experience as teachers for 25 years each; from our journey as moms who have homeschooled with Heart of Dakota from preschool to high school; from our own struggles with health, budgets, laundry, cooking, and cleaning; and from the lives of women we’ve met in the past 20+ years of helping others.

Sunday’s Encouraging Word sets your heart upon the Lord with Scripture to refresh you as you prepare for your upcoming week of homeschooling.

Monday’s Charlotte Mason Moment introduces you to this great lady with her own words in quotes that are as significant today as they were 100 years ago.

Tuesday’s Dear Carrie letter shares real questions women have asked Carrie and her practical yet heartfelt answers.

Rotating Wednesday’s week one’s Library Builder spotlights our favorite Heart of Dakota living books and brings you monthly coupons to build your library with our Book Set of the Month. Week two’s More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment delves deeper into successfully implementing Charlotte Mason ideals in your Heart of Dakota day. Week three’s Pondering Placement showcases Heart of Dakota placement advice given to families just like you. Week four’s A Heart of Dakota Life gives inspiration for making the most of your homeschool journey with Heart of Dakota. Finally, every time there is a fifth Wednesday in the month, week five’s History with Heart of Dakota brings to life a historical topic covered in Heart of Dakota’s guides.

Thursday’s Teaching Tips gives practical ways to help your homeschool teaching be successful and your homeschooling days with Heart of Dakota be the best they can be.

Friday’s From Our House to Yours rewinds time and shares a blast from the past and tips from the present “from our house to yours.”

Saturday’s Heart of Dakota’s Tidbits introduces you to our family and shares some of the little known quirks and facts of our lives.

So, who is this blog for, you ask?

It’s for women who love their homeschooling but want to find more joy in it.

It’s for women who no longer love homeschooling but want to reclaim that joy.

It’s for women who are brand new to homeschooling and want to begin their journey well.

It’s for women who have been homeschooling for what feels like forever and want to end their journey well.

It’s for women who are overtired, overstressed, overworked, and underpaid.

It’s for women who love homeschooling so much, they want to inspire others to find their passion for it too.

And it’s for women like us, who once felt unsure about homeschooling, who made some missteps along the way, but who found a path that leads to a meaningful homeschool life filled with joy!

We believe there is a content, happy homeschool mom in us all!

Our job is to find her. We are writing this blog to help you find a Heart of Dakota homeschool life you love. Regardless of where you live, what size your house is, how many children you have, or what ‘crazy’ is happening in your life, you have the power to strengthen, impact, and change your own life, and the lives of your children.

Our hope is that each blog will help put a smile on your face in the morning, perk you up at lunch, settle you in at night, or just give your life a needed boost or a dash of glitter to make your homeschooling life shine.

Have a Routine for Breakfast and Lunch

Teaching Tip

This is the next installment in our series of posts about things to check if your school day seems to be running longer than you would like. I know this can happen to any of us, and hopefully these tips may help!

Tip #6:

Do you have an efficient breakfast, lunch, and chore routine?

Not having a set routine for meals can steal a huge amount of teaching time from your day! If meal time is always a big production, and it comes around three times a day…think how much valuable teaching time is lost while preparing meals! It is equally easy to have your time, focus, and joy stolen by a messy house and half-done chores. So, let’s talk about ways to conquer these time stealers.

In today’s tip, I will address the breakfast and lunch routine. Next week, we’ll talk about possible chore routines. You may also want to check out my previous post on Keeping a Similar Routine Each Day.

As you ponder an efficient breakfast and lunch routine, I will share what we currently do. Hopefully that will get you thinking of possibilities that might work at your house.

Having a set breakfast and lunch routine saves you time!

Through the years, we have changed what we eat for breakfast and lunch. One thing that has remained the same is to have a set breakfast and lunch routine Monday – Friday. I write the routine on paper and post it on our refrigerator in a magnetized plastic page protector. That way I can change the menu easily whenever I feel we need a change.

Having a posted breakfast and lunch menu helps you plan ahead.

You can easily use any rotation you desire for breakfast and lunch, but having the routine written and posted helps you plan ahead. It also means you have a routine shopping list for the bulk of your meals each week. Keeping the rotation the same each week allows you to become efficient at preparing those particular meals. As your children get used to the routine, they can look ahead and help you prepare the meals.

Our Current Breakfast Routine:

Monday: Pumpkin Pancakes (with cinnamon/sugar/Reddi-Wip) and Eggs
Tuesday: Yogurt Parfait (yogurt with granola, honey, berries) Toasted English Muffin (with butter and jelly)
Wednesday: Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Hashbrowns
Thursday: Whole Grain Eggo Waffles (spread with Nutella/cut up bananas/Reddi-Wip) and Applesauce
Friday: Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie and Toast with Peanut Butter

Our Current Lunch Routine:

Monday: Tortilla Chips, Shredded Cheese, Ground Beef, Salsa, Sour Cream, Corn, and Grapes
Tuesday: Ham n’ Cheese Croissants, Carrot Slices, Blackberries, and Gold Fish Crackers
Wednesday: Bagged Caesar Salad, Shredded Rotisserie Chicken, Apples (cut up with peanut butter), and Yogurt
Thursday: Tuna (open-faced on toast), Cheese Slices with Wheat Crackers, Craisins/Almonds, Grapes
Friday: Rotation of Frozen Pizza, Salmon, Pot Pies, Mac n’ cheese, Soup and Toast, Hot Dogs with Pears or Peaches and Go-gurt

Basic menus become an efficient part of your daily routine.

As you can see, our menus are pretty basic. Yet, we typically keep the same menu for quite awhile, because it has become an efficient part of our daily routine. Our boys actually look forward to certain days based on the menu. They go to bed at night saying, “Tomorrow we have pancakes for breakfast. I love Mondays!” Or, “Tomorrow is my favorite lunch!” Try developing your own rotation for breakfast and lunch and see what you think!


Welcome to the Olympics!

From Our House to Yours

Welcome to the Olympics!

Ancient Greece was the living book Emmett read for Creation to Christ this week, so of course his History Project included bringing to life the most popular Olympic events. Naturally, all of our sons insisted on joining in the fun! Events competed in were the…

Creation to Christ Olympics
Heart of Dakota’s Creation to Christ – History Project – The Olympics!

⦁ shot-put (launching a cotton ball across our living room)
⦁ broad jump (jumping as far as possible from a given starting point)
⦁ discus throw (tossing a paper plate to send it hurtling into the air)
⦁ javelin toss (throwing a straw torpedoing through the room)
⦁ long jump (taking a running start to jump as far as possible)

Put on your game face!
Heart of Dakota - Creation to Christ - Olympics
The “Official” Heart of Dakota Olympic Scorecard

In preparation for the Olympics, Emmett created a chart with 3 trials for each event. Using a tape measure to determine each distance in inches, he recorded the data for each trial in his chart. The results? Competition was fierce, but laughter could often be heard even during the most heated of battles! Each son showed prowess in different events, and though age was often a benefit it did not always ensure victory. Favorite events were the long jump, the broad jump, and the discus throw. Given the chance, I do believe each of them would gladly compete in the Olympics again tomorrow. However, a new history project will surely offer another opportunity for fun!

‘Fun Mama’ makes a rare appearance!
Heart of Dakota - History Project - The Olympics
The Award Ceremony!

As always, Heart of Dakota’s hands-on projects leave my sons with the impression that this homeschool mama is loads of fun. The rest of you homeschool moms know the truth; I’m just a mom doing what’s in the guide. But for now, I’m basking in the moment of being ‘fun mama’. No need to point out the obvious… that Carrie Austin actually transformed this ordinary mama into a witty, merry, creative mama with a swoosh of her magic writing wand. I’ll be back to working, cleaning, cooking, boring, Cinderella mama tomorrow, but for this Olympic moment, I was at the ball.

Have a Written Routine and Provide it to Your Child

Teaching Tip

A written routine promotes independence and efficiency.

This is the next installment in our series of posts about things to check if your school day seems to be running longer than you would like. I know this can happen to any of us, and hopefully these tips may help!

Tip #5:

A written routine can make all the difference.

Have you written your routine down and provided it for your child, so the child knows what to do in what order each day? I know this seems like such an easy tip, but I find the easiest tips are often the easiest to overlook. When I first began homeschooling more than one of my boys, I spent endless hours planning and writing the “perfect schedule.” I typed the schedule, printed it, and launched into our homeschool day. As we progressed through our day, my boys were constantly coming to me to see “what to do next.” As the official holder of the schedule, I was interrupted over and over throughout the day to delegate to each child what to do next.

Where do you place your schedule?

The next day I typed a schedule for all to see and placed it on the refrigerator. This was a better plan than the day before, as my boys could now check the schedule without bothering me. However, it also left them standing in front of the refrigerator all day and led to quite a bit of unnecessary chatter and even horseplay! So, the next day I typed a schedule for each child, placed it in a plastic page protector and gave it to each child. Success!! The boys could now check their own schedules without coming to me and without bothering each other. I added a dry erase marker for each child to check off the items on his schedule each day, and we were off and running. Of course, I had to remind the boys to check their schedules fairly often throughout the day, and I needed my own master copy of the schedule. But, for us, having a written routine provided for each child was a lifesaver.

How does a schedule become routine?

As the year progressed, I found that the boys had memorized their schedules, and so had I. We rarely had to refer to them, because the schedules had now become routine. For us, having a written schedule for each child is a necessary step in making a routine function effortlessly. As you look at how to make your school day run more smoothly, try writing down a schedule and giving it to your child. See if it makes a difference for you too!!