Children Independently Reading and Parents Prereading Materials

Dear Carrie

What is the philosophy behind the increase in children independently reading, and will I then have to preread the materials?

This is my first year homeschooling, and my oldest is using Little Hearts for His Glory (which we love)! Now I am trying to research the future years in Heart of Dakota. I wanted to ask about the philosophy behind the increasingly independent work. By high school, I know working independently will be a necessary skill. I can see it is good to work towards that. However, which parts are independent? And how do I stay involved in those parts? I guess I just want to be reassured about this road to independence. One follow-up question I have is, do you then preread/preview the books they are reading independently? Prereading seems like a daunting task. I guess until I am comfortable with not reading the content, we may need to read it together for awhile. How have you handled this? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Explain Independently Reading and Whether I Have to Preread Materials”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain Independently Reading and Whether I Have to Preread Materials,”

I remember feeling the way that you do when my oldest son was as young as your oldest kiddos. When my children were young, I did preread everything that they read. As they grew older, and became avid readers, it became nearly impossible for me to preread everything before my kiddos read it. I then realized I had to begin relying more on booklists and publishers that I trusted.

Around third grade is when kiddos begin to prefer to read their material independently to themselves.

Around third grade is usually the point at which this begins. This is when your kiddos really begin to out-read you on a daily basis. This is also, hopefully, the time when they have found great joy in reading and no longer want to be made to read aloud to you. Instead, they begin to prefer to read their material silently to themselves around this same age (as Charlotte Mason so wisely mentioned – around age 9). Moving toward independence is honestly a stage in reading. It is one that comes after the child has emerged as a reader and is a joy to behold!

Our goal is to train children to read their own books independently with moral discernment.

At Heart of Dakota (HOD), our goal is train children to learn to read their own books but to read them independently with moral discernment. This is a goal that is necessary lifelong, as we know as parents we will not always be with our children as they choose what to read, and our children will need to grow in discerning for themselves how what they are reading is lining up with the standards God sets forth in His Word. Drawn into the Heart of Reading (DITHR) is based upon this. This is also why we wrote DITHR to work with any books. So, this leaves you in the driver’s seat in this important area, if you are wanting to be there. Otherwise, we have done our best to choose our favorite books within our DITHR book packs.

Details Regarding Parents Reading Aloud Through Creation to Christ

At HOD, we do read aloud the history spines to our children all the way through Preparing Hearts. We read aloud all of the science material in the guides up through Bigger Hearts. Each of our guides to follow continue to have many areas of interaction for both parent and child. For example, in Creation to Christ we are able to do a thorough Genesis study and a Geography Study of the Bible Lands (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, Write with the Best, and reading aloud Storytime). We see or hear about every other part of the guide, through the kiddos’ notebooks and narrations.

Details Regarding Parents Reading Aloud Through Revival to Revolution

In RTR, we are able to spend time doing a purity study, study higher level poetry like Emily Dickinson’s, and do picture study (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons, and reading aloud Storytime). In the Revival to Revolution, we do a worldview study Who Is God? and also do a composer study (along with still teaching math, grammar, DITHR, dictation, The Wonderful World of Creative Writing, and reading aloud Storytime). We continue to see or hear about every part of each guide through the daily assignments. I could continue, but in these listings, you can see that at HOD we hold back a variety of important things for our interactions between parent and child and allow the child to do the parts independently on their own that they are ready and trained to do well.

We train our children to read well but also to love what they are reading and to discern how it fits with God’s Word.

Imagine that on top of all the things I’ve shared above that you were still reading aloud all of the history and science each day and guiding every activity. Would you truly have time to get done the wonderful studies that I’ve mentioned above? Or, would they quickly fall by the wayside in the overburdening of being the sole reader and the sole purveyor of information? It is evident that God desired for our children to read for themselves, or He would not have written His Book to our children and to us. Understanding and making sense of the written word is an integral part of education. This is why through HOD, we train our children to read well independently and to comprehend what they are reading, but also to love what they are reading and discern how it fits with God’s Word.

Encouraging Children to Gradually Move Forward in Their Reading Independently

After our children have had years of very focused teaching attention, they are ready to move forward a bit more on their own independently, and we encourage this growth. This happens very gradually about the time of Preparing Hearts, but only in two subject areas (both of which are quite short)! In the guides which follow Preparing Hearts, I cannot imagine my older boys (6th and 9th grade) waiting on me every day to read their material to them, nor of me reading aloud the same history and science material to all of my children (from aged 15 down to 4).

Our children have a thirst for their school books, and they do not need me to get in between them and their school material.

While I do truly love reading aloud everything to my 4 year old and 2nd grader right now, they still need me to do it! But, there is so much difference in my children’s maturity at their various ages (and will likely be for your kiddos too), so there should be a difference in what I expect from them. It’s so important to recognize that difference and to award children with independence accordingly. Right now, all of my boys love books, and my older three boys read avidly independently. I am glad they out-read me! They have a thirst for their school books that I never had, and they do not need me to get in between them and their school material (as CM would say). Instead, it is our desire for them to develop their own relationship with the reading.

Our goal is to incrementally train children how to learn independently, so they become lifelong learners.

I do preread the books we use in our guides very carefully, and I write the key ideas to give parents a great look into what is being read too. The narrations both oral and written are another window into the readings, and I always have the book in hand when my child is narrating to skim over. Since you are the parent, you can be as involved as you choose to be. It is your children’s education. Our goal is not to “hand off” the child’s education to them, but rather to incrementally train them how to learn so that they become lifelong learners.

In Closing

In closing, I leave you with this thought to ponder: If our children, as they mature, see their schoolbooks as only being mine to read to them, when will they ever make the leap into learning for their own sake? I agree that it is a new stage in the child’s learning, but one that is important to take or the child’s learning will forever be dependent on us.


P.S. Carrie’s children were ages 4 to 15 years old at the time of her answering this question, so this is a vintage ‘Dear Carrie’ response!


‘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!


What can my toddler do, so I have time to teach my 9 year-old?

Dear Carrie

What things can my toddler do, so I can have time to teach my 9 year-old daughter?

I am new this year to Heart of Dakota, and I love the content and approach! However, I don’t know how to structure my day. I have 4 kiddos who are 9, 6, 4, 2 and a baby due in January. We are using Beyond Little Hearts and Preparing Hearts. My 6 year-old doesn’t take long, and my daughter is able to be independent. However, I want to be involved and do the teacher recommended stuff with her. With my littler ones, I find it hard to keep them busy and also play/interact with them. Especially my 2 year-old son! I am looking for suggestions on how to balance different ages and abilities. Specifically, I’m needing ideas on what to do with my little ones (especially the toddler), so I can get time alone with my daughter. Thanks! It is much appreciated!

“Ms. Needing Things for My Toddler to Do, So I Can Teach My 9 Year-Old”

Dear “Ms. Needing Things for My Toddler to Do, So I Can Teach My 9 Year-Old,”

I agree that schooling with a 2 year-old (or any toddler) can be very interesting! It will be even more important to figure out a routine for that particular child than it is to schedule your older two. This is because a 2 year-old can make the best laid schedule come apart at the seams very quickly.

I would move your toddler from thing to thing every 20-30 minutes.

So, with that in mind, I would begin the schedule thinking of how to keep your 2 year-old moving from thing to thing every 20-30 minutes. I would take time to truly train that child with his/her schedule, as this will make your school day go so much better! This can be done in stages, so please don’t get overwhelmed with my post below, as it is just full of ideas! Remember, you can gradually consider doing whichever ones might work for you! Just think that anything you do for your 2-3 year-old will really pay off! I’ll combine some of my previous posts below of things we’ve done with our schedule for our little ones at that age, and you can see what might work for you.

Try letting your toddler sleep until he wakes up and have him eat breakfast later.

We usually let our little ones sleep later in the morning and get up when they wake up. This means we do two shifts for breakfast as the older boys do get up and get started on time. The little ones eat when they come down. We make oatmeal and leave it on warm on the stove, as it can be eaten easily anytime. Our other breakfast is eggs in the microwave that the boys make on their own. Just crack 1-2 eggs in a microwave safe cereal bowl, stir, microwave and add a touch of salt or shredded cheese when they’re done. We add yogurt and peanut butter toast, and breakfast is a quick affair. This allows us to eat in shifts as needed. Our meals where we typically sit down together to eat more as a family are lunch and dinner.

Your toddler can start eating lunch earlier, and you can read aloud as the olders eat as well.

Another thing that helps is for us to start the 2 or 3 year-old early on his lunch. Toddlers are usually hungry earlier than the older ones, so having them begin eating earlier is helpful. It buys me about 20 minutes more work time with my other children. We usually work right at the table where the little one is eating, so that child feels a part of what we’re doing, but is happily engaged. Once our toddler finishes eating, he is happier as we read aloud with the others at lunch and is more willing to either go play or play with cupboard toys while the rest of the kiddos are eating. I also often read aloud at lunch to my kiddos when they are all eating, as full mouths are quiet mouths (and their minds are listening)!

Try clearing out a lower cabinet and stocking it with toys for your toddler.

Another wonderful thing that is well worth doing is to clear out a lower kitchen cabinet and stock it with just your toddler’s toys. I only allowed my 2-3 year-old to have one toy at a time out of the cupboard. We placed child protectors on the cabinet doors to enforce this. Then, I filled the cabinet with all sorts of quiet items that the 2-3 year-old could get out (one at a time) and play with quietly at the table or on the floor by the cabinet. Often my boys spent much time just getting one thing out and putting it away, so they could get the next thing out of the cabinet. The rule was only one item out at a time, and it must be put away prior to getting out the next item. This easily took 25-30 minutes and can be used anytime you need it.

Cabinet toys are special for toddlers, and toys with many pieces can be stored in clear tubs with lids.

Many days my toddler just spent a lot of time taking out one toy, scattering it on the floor, picking it up, putting it away, and getting out another one (which is great for fine motor muscle building and for practicing the skill of picking up)! We did put child protectors on the cupboard doors, which my son could open. But, it slowed him down and kept him from just unloading the cabinet. We tried to put the toys in the cabinet that had many pieces in storage boxes WITH LIDS. This kept my son busy every morning, again in the afternoon, and in the evening. It is still the first thing he heads for when he comes downstairs, as he knows it is his. We also have a playroom with his toys, but for years he often only ever wanted what was in the cabinet.

There are some inexpensive things you can place in a cabinet for your toddler.

Some examples of inexpensive things to place in the cabinet for your toddler that you may already have on hand would be a bucket of cars, a lidded container with macaroni noodles and a measuring cup, play food that he can cut or put together, and a can of tennis balls with a lid. You could also include a container with a blunt tweezers and small objects to pick up with the tweezers (like small pieces of yarn). If you have one, a Cheerio book (where kiddos put the Cheerios on the openings in each page) works great! Or, you can make your own Cheerio book! Just use coloring book pages and draw circles where your kiddo should place the Cheerios (and then eat them)!

Toddlers also love a container with trains and a track in it or a magnadoodle. Anything your toddler can pound like a ball pounder also works well. You can also have colored cups with a small container of legos chosen to be the same color as the cups. (So, your toddler can sort the colored legos into the matching cup.) A lidded tub filled with stuffed toys, a container of megablocks, and some tractors or other vehicles works well too!

Here are some toy suggestions for 3 or 4 year-olds, which will work well for your 4 year-old daughter.

Toys for a 3 or 4 year-old could have smaller parts and more involved steps. Thinks like simple puzzles, possibly playdough or moon dough, large gears, objects for sorting, alphabet letters, foam blocks, large tangram shapes, and a dry erase marker board and low odor marker (only when supervised) work well. Likewise, stacking cups, nesting boxes or other things that fit within one another are fun and educational. Finally, large lacing beads, snap cubes, and patterning cards work well for this age too!

Try a high chair time with your toddler!

Another help for a 2-3 year-old toddler is high chair time. This usually buys about 15 minutes. We tried to have a high chair time each day for our kiddos when they were that age. We also attempted a playpen time and a play at the table time each day. Here are just a few ideas we used in the past for our high chair time for our busy, busy boys at that age:

1. Save the plastic eggs that snap together from Easter and place a Cheerio or other edible object inside each one. Then, have the child open and eat them. Or, if possible, have the child put the object in and then take it out.

2. Do paint with water books in the highchair. Tear one page out of the book and tape it to the high chair tray. Give the child a small plastic container of water (flatter is better than taller, so it doesn’t tip) and a paintbrush to paint on the water, and watch the colors appear on the paint with water page. Often the paper ended up so saturated, you couldn’t see the picture! However, the time it gave me was worth it!

3. Cheerio books you can get at almost any book store. These have an indented spot to place a Cheerio in on each page creating a scene. We bought them for our first son and have had them for each child ever since. These work great in the high chair as well. Simply give the child a small cup of Cheerios to place on each page, reusing the Cheerios as they go. Then at the end they can eat them. (Or, they can eat as they go sometimes too!)

More high chair time ideas for your toddler!

4. Tape a white piece of paper to the high chair tray.  Sprinkle a bit of Kool-aid or Crystal light powder on the page. Then, give the child a paintbrush and some water and let them paint the powder.

5. Give the child a singing book to look at while in the high chair. Ours have the buttons you can push down the side and sing different songs or make noises.

6. Try having the child look at a pile of lift-the-flap books with very large flaps while in the high chair. Some of my boys liked this better than others!

7. Use dot paint markers. These markers have paint inside them and make paint dots on paper when pressed down. Just tape a paper to the high chair and let them dot away! Make sure the paint is washable though, as they often dot the tray and themselves!

8. Magnetic train cars to push around on the high chair tray work well if you happen to have any of those. Each of our boys have loved these.

9. Sometimes a combination works too. Start with one high chair item and when the child is finished do another one. We tried for 15-20 minutes in the high chair at a time mid-morning.

Try a playpen, crib, or room time with your toddler while you teach the left side of Beyond to your 6 year-old!

A playpen, crib, or room time is another great help with a toddler. When my toddler is doing this, I typically do the left side of LHFHG or Beyond (as it takes about 30 minutes to do the left side). One Managers of Their Homes’ idea that I really liked and used was the Mommy Tape/CD/recording. I recorded myself reading short Bible stories, nursery rhymes, counting, saying family members’ names, singing short little songs like “Jesus Loves Me,” etc., to last 30 minutes. During the recording, I said my little one’s name over and over, like I was talking to him. I played it every day while my little one had time in his room with his toys (we do that time in his crib for safety reasons). When the recording ends, the child knows the time is up.

A Progression of Playtime to Try with Your Toddler As He Grows Older

Playpen time amounted to a singing tape/CD with toys in the playpen. My toddlers were required to stay in the playpen for 20-30 minutes. When they outgrew the playpen, we moved it to time in the child’s crib. Then, later we began assigning an older child to play with the younger one during that time instead. Once the child was not such a danger to himself, we switched this time to being playtime alone in his room. This happens around age 4 at our house.

Try having an older child play with the toddler.

Another thing to consider is having an older child play with the younger child. We required the kiddos to play in one room for that time. I rotated the room by day, once the older child was responsible enough to be out of my sight with the younger one. For time with another child at this age, we had the older child have an assigned card with an order in which to do things with the younger child.

Ideas to Include on a Card for An Older Child Playing with a Younger Child

The card for each day usually included some of the following:
1. Read two board books to the child.
2. Do 1 or more fingerplays with the child. ( I had a list and taught the older child how to do them.)
3. Walk around with the child in the house and point to and name 10 objects, having the younger child repeat back the name of each object.
4. Count from 1 on up to… (whatever is most appropriate) with the child, having the child repeat each number after the older one says it.
5. Sit on the floor and roll a soft air-filled ball back and forth. Then, stand and bounce it back and forth. Last, gently throw the ball back and forth.
6. Stand back and toss beanbags or rolled up socks into a laundry basket.
7. Follow along in a book with an audio book while having the younger child sit next to the older child or on his/her lap.
8. Play with an assigned toy. (I assigned a different toy to each day, so the older child knew what to play and where to play it.)

I also have assigned an older child to sit and do educational computer time with my kiddos aged 3 or 4 and help and guide them. So, this is an option as your toddler gets older.

Try table time with your toddler!

For our toddlers, we’ve also had table time. This is similar to the cabinet idea but gives another thing for toddlers to do each day. For this, we used 5 different tubs (that slid under my bed for storage when not in use). We numbered the tubs Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5. Each day we took out a different tub, and the boys played with the items in the tub. I just used things we already had on hand. By placing them in the tub to only come out once each week, the items seemed new and exciting. Then, if anyone ever gave us something new, I placed it in a tub. Tub items included puzzles, books, toys, short books on tape/CD, etc. We set the timer and required the boys to play with the items in the tub for 20 minutes.

Try scheduling some 1:1 time for 15 minutes with your toddler!

Last, I’ve found that if I schedule some time to be one-on-one for 10-15 minutes with my little one, early on or midway through the morning, then he is more willing to go play on his own. Even reading a book or singing a couple of songs with him will give him that one on one time. Of course, you can start Heart of Dakota’s Little Hands to Heaven guide half-speed during this time as well!

You can see that as much planning goes into the 2-3 year-old’s day as goes into any part of HOD! There is also much training there too! But it pays off big dividends in your year all year! Not to mention, it gives you important, necessary time to teach your 6 and 9 year-olds!


How can we squeeze what we have left for high school into 2 years?

Dear Carrie

How can my daughter squeeze American History, Economics, Government, and Geography into her 2 remaining years of high school?

My daughter has two years of high school left after this year. This is her first year using Heart of Dakota. She is doing World History and loving it! Sadly, she still needs American History, Economics, Government, and Geography. We are trying to figure out how she can squeeze all of this into her 2 remaining high school years. I had two ideas. One, she could do HOD’s USI and USII, which include Economics and Government. Then, maybe she could squeeze in a 1/2 credit Geography course (from a different curriculum) over the summer? Or, could just Mapping The World with Art be a ‘squeeze-in’? But, I hate for her to miss HOD’s World Geography guide and all those amazing books. She really cannot tell you where anything in the world is located.

So, that brings me to idea two. She could do HOD’s World Geography (in its entirety) and one of the American History guides. Then, I’d have her squeeze in reading a few books for the other part of American History to get the full story. Her 8th grade brother is going to be doing MTMM this next year. Maybe I could put her in that with him (with extensions and beefing up)? Then, I could have her do World Geography the next year with him. She could then just squeeze in some books to get the first part of American History. Does this sound doable? She will already be graduating a year late…she will be 19 1/2. So, we really do only have 2 more years of school to squeeze it all in.  Do you have any ideas how to squeeze this all in, and what guide to skip? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Help Us Squeeze What We Have Left for High School Into 2 Years”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Us Squeeze What We Have Left for High School Into 2 Years,”

Thanks so much for sharing about your daughter! We have some good options for her to complete what she has left for high school. We might even be able to avoid the ‘squeeze’ feeling! Since she is doing the World History Guide now, and I am assuming it is going well, it would be quite a bit of backward motion to go back to MTMM. It would be better for her to stay within the realm of the high school guides instead, just to keep forward motion and to keep her well-placed skill-wise.

Option 1: World Geography for 11th, American History I (with Government) for 12th, with Economics As a Slight ‘Squeeze-In’

With this in mind, I see a couple of options as possibilities. One option would be to do the World Geography next year for her junior year and then to do the first American History guide with Government for her final year. This would mean she would need to add as a slight ‘squeeze-in’ Economics. It might be possible to do this either with World Geography or with American History, depending on whether she does all of the credits offered within each guide. It is typically acceptable to study a portion of American History, as long as a full credit is earned in that study. So, if she did not get to the final American History guide that would be alright. She would still earn a full credit of American history for completion of the first American history guide. She would also earn another 1/2 credit for Government.

Option 1: American History I (with Government) for 11th, American History II (with Economics) for 12th, with Geography… No ‘Squeeze-In’ Required

Another option would be to do the last two American History guides (including Government and Economics) and omit the World Geography Guide. In this scenario, you would have to earn the Geography 1/2 credit you mentioned is required. There is quite a bit of mapping within both the American History guides. I’m not sure if your daughter had any mapping or geography her freshman year, but there is some in the World History guide as well, and there are definitely geography concepts regularly discussed. So, I am thinking that among the 3 HOD high school guides she would earn her 1/2 credit of Geography.

Which two HOD guides do you want her to have before she graduates?

So, then it is just a matter of deciding which two HOD guides you desire for her to have before she graduates. Do you desire for her to have the World Geography and the first American History guide? Or, do you desire for her to follow the last two American History guides? Either plan will work. If she does do the World Geography guide, I would have her do it next year, followed by the American History I guide her senior year. You could also look to determine which extra credits in the guides are most helpful (i.e. Logic, Foreign Language, Bible, World Religion and Cultures, etc.). It may also help to look at the sciences in the guides and see if she is in need of those as well. This may provide more clarity.

Either plan will work, so I’d choose the one that makes the last two years be less of a ‘squeeze’!

If she does not do the final HOD guide, she will miss British Literature. However, with the titles read for literature within the World Geography and the World History Guides, a 1/2 credit in British Literature could be awarded (alleviating that problem). The first American History guide will contain American Literature, also solving that problem. So, it truly is a matter of deciding which two guides fit her needs best! If you choose to have your daughter do the last 2 American History Guides, then she will cover Economics (earning 1/2 credit) within the final American History Guide. So, you won’t have to add that yourself! I’d just choose the plan that makes the last two years be less of a ‘squeeze’ and get to enjoying your remaining high school years together!


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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,