Set aside a balanced amount of time to teach to simplify your homeschooling!

A Heart of Dakota Life

#4 – Set Aside A Balanced Amount of Time to Teach

Using Heart of Dakota is already a wonderful way you can simplify and love your homeschool life! However, it is often the everyday things that can make or break our homeschooling success, especially long-term. In this “A Heart of Dakota Life” series, we’re exploring ways to simplify and love our homeschool life. We’ve learned the importance of not ‘going it alone,’ of enlisting help, and of enjoying the comfort of our home.  This brings us to our fourth way to simplify and love our homeschool life, and that is to make sure to set aside a balanced amount of time to teach.

Homeschooling won’t just happen – we have to make time for it!

Setting aside time to teach may seem like such an obvious thing to do to successfully homeschool. However, since we can homeschool anytime, it is tempting to think we don’t really need to set aside time to make it happen.  We have all day, all week, all year to homeschool, so what’s the big deal about mindfully setting aside time to teach? Well, the big deal is homeschooling won’t just happen. In fact, days go by faster than you think, weeks quicker than you can blink, and – before you know it – yet another year has passed.

Be informed about how much time you need to be able to teach!

Before you can set aside time to teach, it helps to know how much time you need to set aside. Heart of Dakota makes that easy, as Carrie writes plans in a very consistent way. Each guide has daily plans that take relatively the same amount of time each day. Likewise, each type of assignment takes about the same amount of time to do. Furthermore, Carrie has even given suggested time allotments for each box of plans on this blog and on our message board. Finally, starting with Preparing Hearts, Carrie notes whether assignments are “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, or “I” independent. Heart of Dakota is complete, so you don’t really need to add anything to it. However, if you are adding things to HOD that require teaching, of course you’ll want to plan for more time to teach. The same holds true if you are substituting things that require more teaching.

Avoid multi-tasking, media monitoring, and mega expectations!

To truly enjoy your teaching in homeschooling, it is important to be as focused as possible when you are teaching. Women are wonderful at multi-tasking! I often dry my hair with one hand while putting on my makeup with the other hand while marching in place to try to hit my steps’ goal on my Fitbit. I used to employ this strategy while teaching. I’d fold laundry while I listened to an oral narration, make lunch while touting a book in another hand and reading aloud, even brush my teeth while listening to my children say their Bible verses. I don’t recommend this. Multi-tasking is no friend to teaching well. Likewise, monitoring my media (like email, FB, voicemail) during teaching isn’t helpful. Finally, having mega expectations for my children to turn out 100% perfect work steals my joy and just adds time to my teaching.

The Flip Side – Planning too much time to teach!

I’ve met homeschool moms who are teaching all day, all week, and sometimes even all year! They often are weary, stressed, and ready to put their children in public school. Their husbands feel the same. Their children feel the same. Homeschooling is meant to be a part of our lives, not all of it.  I love coffee, and lots of it, but at 1 PM, no matter what, I’m all done drinking coffee. If all I drank was coffee, I’d actually begin to dislike it. Likewise, planning too much time to teach can make both parents and children begin to dislike homeschooling. Maintaining a balance in life is important.  There is a point in which we call it ‘good enough’ and move on to other interests in life.

Take Action

How do you feel about the amount of time you are teaching each of your children right now? Are you frazzled because you don’t have enough time to teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time? Are you attending too many activities? Consider dropping some and enjoying fewer activities more fully. Are you checking your FB every minute or two? Consider docking your phone and setting a few times to check it more mindfully. Are you getting to bed too late binge watching Netflix? Consider enjoying one episode and getting to bed earlier so you can get up to teach on time. Are you volunteering for too many things? Consider volunteering for one thing and doing it more wholeheartedly. Are you serving perfectly healthy meals all made from scratch? Consider adding in a few ready-made quick-to-the-table meals.

Or, on the flip side, are you weary because all you do is teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time for things other than teaching? For example, are you doing 2 spelling programs because your child is a poor speller? Consider choosing one and doing it well. Are you having your children write their narrations twice, so they are perfect on their notebooking pages? Consider having them write them once in pencil; then hop in and help them quickly fix any errors. Are you teaching multiple classes at a co-op and finding you have no time to teach at home? Consider teaching one class only, or take a break from co-op for awhile. Are you hovering over your older children as they do their independent work? Consider walking away and checking back with them at a set time. Are you reading aloud books your children are assigned to read independently? Consider only reading aloud the books assigned to be, and take your time to truly enjoy the reading!

Mindfully planning when you will teach can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of your life! 

One of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling is to mindfully plan when we will teach. This can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of our life. If you find you are off balance, why not take some real time to fix it? Don’t be too hard on yourself. None of us are perfect. And try not to over-correct! You’ll just throw your teaching off-balance in the other direction. Rather shoot for the middle and make what progress toward balance you can each day. Go forward in confidence, rather than wistfully looking back. Life will never be perfect, and we will never be perfect at keeping everything in balance. But, when it comes to homeschooling, taking time to truly plan for teaching – in as balanced of a way as possible – is one of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling life!

In Christ,



Economics in U.S. History II

Dear Carrie

How long does U.S. History II’s Economics take, and what types of assignments go with it?

We’ve enjoyed using Heart of Dakota for a decade now. Like always about this time of year, I am starting to think about next year. I was wondering about the Economics in U.S. History II. How long does it take each day? What types of assignments go along with it? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Describe Economics in U.S. History II”

Dear “Ms. Please Describe Economics in U.S. History II,”

The assignments vary with the books that the students are using. The opening 14-15 weeks have students watching Money-Wise DVD segments and doing corresponding video viewing guides, discussions, and assignments. These sessions average around 30-35 minutes daily. Occasionally, some days are 5-10 min. longer if the students are viewing a longer video and recording information. Once weekly, students read and annotate from Larry Burkett’s Money Matters for Teens. These days are shorter.

After moving through the Money-Wise DVD/guide sessions, students move on to reading Economics: A Free Market Reader and answering daily questions that pertain to the reading. Questions range from comprehension to application to research. The daily sessions hover around 25-30 minutes at that point, depending on how fast a child reads. The rest of the year will follow a similar pattern as the students move through the remaining Economics Resources.

I hope that helps!! My son truly enjoyed the Economics and Finance combination in U.S. History II. He talked with my husband almost daily about one or both of these subjects. We think it is timely for students to be studying Economics and Finance their senior year as they prepare for adult life. We couldn’t be more pleased with the connections between the two subjects. I found the study of these two subjects extremely entertaining as well as I planned them (and neither area was a love of mine previously)!


P.S. For more general information about Heart of Dakota, click here!

Why homeschool? Home is a healthier place to school!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Home is a healthier place to school!

We continue our series on why you should consider homeschooling your children!  In this Heart of Dakota post, we explore homeschooling as a healthier place for children to be schooled.

Home is a healthier place to school children because there are less germs!

Schools have closed down due to more than a third of the children being too sick to attend. Influenza A, influenza B, and strep throat have forced schools to close their doors and send children home. Schools certainly try to stay on top of the spreading of germs as much as possible! However, it is a difficult task with so many children all using the same small classrooms and restrooms. Antibacterial germicide was even listed on the necessary list of school supplies. However, when one child ate the germicide and was hospitalized, it was removed from the list and banned from local schools. In contrast, the home is a healthier place to school children. It is smaller, easier to clean, and has fewer people to pass germs among. Where are children sent when the school is full of sickness? Home. Why? It is simply a healthier place to be.

Home is a healthier place to school children because allergies can be taken into consideration!

Our son is deathly allergic to fish. I know children who are allergic to peanuts, milk, eggs, soy, and wheat. To say it is a challenge to feed them is an understatement. I also know children allergic to cats and dogs. Pet dander clings to sweatshirts, coats, and hats, so it easily finds its way into classrooms. One would think opening the windows to air out the classroom would be a good idea! However, what about the children with bee allergies or with outdoor allergies? Tree pollen in the spring, grass and weed pollen in the summer, and ragweed pollen in the fall all make certain children stay indoors. But then again, mold and dust mites thrive indoors and love carpet, pillows, and blankets, which in turn brings us to lice. Hmmm. This is why home is a healthier place to school children. Individual allergies can be taken into consideration!

Home is a healthier place to school children because clothes can be changed and recess can be moved in response to the weather!

Weather tends to change. What makes sense to wear in the morning often doesn’t make as much sense to wear in the afternoon. Likewise, recess for 15 minutes at 11 AM and 1 PM  might not be the best time to venture outside.  I sometimes see my children change clothes 3 different times during our homeschool day. They might start out in shorts, change to t-shirts and jeans, and then throw on sweatshirts and athletic pants. Likewise, we may move recess earlier if snow is coming, or later if snow is coming (no, that is not a typo). Certain kinds of snow are perfect for building snowmen and forts. Other kinds are best viewed looking out a window from the warmth of the home! In homeschooling, clothes can be changed and recess can be moved, which just makes home a healthier place to be.

In Christ,


Why homeschool? You can share your faith with your children!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? You can share your faith in God with your children on a daily basis!

Before my husband and I had children to homeschool, I taught other children in public school. Barb Wigg was a second grade teacher who I dreamed of my own children being taught by someday. She loved each and every child in her classroom, she played guitar and sang, she loved finding amazing books to read, she came early and stayed late, she loved teaching, but even more importantly – she loved Jesus. Perfect, right? Well, I was right about Barb Wigg – she truly was a fantastic teacher, and she probably still is today. Just one thing was wrong; she taught in a public school. And that meant as much as she loved Jesus, she couldn’t share her faith with her students.

2003: Wigg vs. the Sioux Falls School District

In October 2002, “The Good News Club” (or the “Club”) requested to use 5 of the 26 elementary schools in our school district after school hours. Many other groups met there already, like Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS). The Club’s request was also accepted. In December of 2002, Barb Wigg decided she would enjoy teaching in the Club. It was a Christian Bible study group for children, which Barb loved. However, when Barb attended the first Club meeting after school hours, the school district said she could not attend any more. Barb stood up for her rights, and that was the beginning of a long, expensive, and exhausting year in the court system. In fact, Barb Wigg eventually wound up in the United States District Court and on Fox News.

Changes in Our School District

Though Barb did win, and she did go on to teach children about Jesus after school hours, she still couldn’t share her faith with the children in her classroom. In fact, she had to be extra careful she didn’t share anything – ever – about her faith in her classroom because now the school district was watching. Very closely. In fact, they were watching all of us very closely. I saw many changes in our school district after that. Our Christian music teacher did her first Christmas concert without Christian songs. The school calendar committee changed “Easter Break” to “Spring Break,” and “Christmas” to “Holiday Break.” High school valedictorians had a ‘moment of silence’ instead of a prayer at graduation. The school talent contest banned violinists and pianists from playing Christian music pieces. Coaches quit praying with their players before games.

Even the most wonderful Christian teachers can’t share their faith with children in public schools!

As I had my own first son, my dream of having Barb Wigg as his teacher began to fade. Barb Wigg was still an amazing teacher, and she still had an incredible heart for the Lord! But I began to realize, even the most wonderful Christian teachers can’t share their faith in public schools.  I began to look ahead and try to handpick the best Christian teachers I could for my son. For first grade, there was ‘so-and-so,’ and for second grade there was ‘so-and-so,’ and for third grade there was ‘so-and-so.’ But there were a few problems with this. First of all, each of the ‘so and so’s were at different schools. Second of all, some grades didn’t seem to have any ‘so-and so’s.  Third of all, I was a Christian myself, and the truth was I knew I’d lose my job if I shared my faith with my own students. I had to assume other Christian teachers were in the same predicament.

In homeschooling, you can share your faith in God with your children every day!

Every day I wake up thankful I can share my faith in God with my children as I homeschool with Heart of Dakota. I don’t have to be careful what I say, what music I play, what books I read, what questions I ask, what discussions I lead. No, I can choose because I am the teacher in my own home, and as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. What an incredible blessing! What a gift to cherish! We start our day with Christian music. Each meal we begin with prayer. Throughout the school day, we pull out our Bibles to seek God’s wisdom. When we get the call my Dad has cancer, we cry and pray and pray together, as a family, right there in the middle of our homeschool day. Sometimes I run into my former students. They are old now! Married and with children themselves. We hug and catch up with one another, but one thought makes my heart ache – I taught them so much, but I didn’t teach them about God. That grieves me.

No one will share their faith in God with your children like you can.

Children can have the best teachers in the world, but no one will share their faith in God with your children like you can. You don’t have to be the most eloquent, you don’t have to have all the answers, you don’t have to be perfect – no one is. All you have to do is live it. Your greatest testimony is your own personal faith in God, your own relationship with Him, your own walk with Him. You have within your power to daily share your own faith in God with His greatest blessings He’s bestowed upon you – your children. Don’t convince yourself someone else can do it better. You can. You are the one for the job, and no one can do it better. Dig in!  Your children await.


In Christ,


Why homeschool? The principal, teacher, and students love your children!

From Our House to Yours

Why homeschool? Your children will always be loved by the principal, the teacher, and the other students!

In this Heart of Dakota From Our House to Yours series, we are exploring reasons why you should homeschool. When you think back to your own elementary, middle school, and high school education, do you remember a principal or a teacher who just didn’t like you? Maybe you dreaded being called upon in their class or being summoned to their office. Or, maybe a fellow student or two just seemed to have it in for you? No matter how you tried, they just didn’t like you. Maybe you dreaded being partnered with them, sitting by them, walking past them, sharing a locker with them, standing in line by them, or going to recess or gym class with them. Negative experiences such as this impact children’s learning and hamper their potential to do their best.

In contrast, what if your principal loved your children?

The ‘principal’ of many homeschool families is also known as ‘Dad.’ He is often the support system, and the behind-the-scenes driving force that makes homeschooling possible.  The ‘teacher’ of many homeschool families is also known as “Mom.’ She is often the manager of the home, making homeschooling happen in the day-to-day.  Sometimes these roles are reversed, shared, or done solo, but no matter which scenario fits your homeschooling, one thing remains the same: both principal and teacher love the children. The bond between parent and child is strong. In homeschooling, having the support of both the principal’s governing force and the teacher’s educating capabilities just helps children have a better opportunity to do their best and meet their highest potential.

What if every single one of the ‘other students’ in the class loved your children?

The ‘other students’ of many homeschool famlies are often known as ‘siblings.’ They are the other members of the ‘class,’ and they make up the team that year-after-year attends ‘school’ together. They are there to encourage one another, to support each other, and to cheer one another on as they celebrate milestones and victories. They take an interest in one another because they are truly invested in each other’s lives, not only for the present, but also for the future.  Why? Because they love each other. Forever. That is how God designed families; blood truly is thicker than water.

What if every school year, you knew your child was absolutely, completely 100% loved by the teacher?

Do you long for your child’s teacher to love your child and give him a bright future? What if you started every school year knowing your child would 100% absolutely, completely be loved by the teacher? And what if the teacher woke up every day dreaming of how she could make just your child’s future better? What if, year after year, she moved up with your child grade by grade? And she really got to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses, honing in on just what your child needed the most?  What if she hugged your child every morning? Personally read to him every day? Asked only him discussion questions to make sure all was well-understood? Well, look in the mirror… that teacher is YOU!

No one will love your children like you will.

I had 7 years of public school teaching before I homeschooled my own children. Admittedly, I cared for each of the children in my 7 classes.  I tried my best to teach them all that I could and to give them a happy, safe environment in which to learn. However, I didn’t LOVE them like I love my own children. I wake up each day thankful I can homeschool my own children. I know the ‘principal,’ and he loves them with all of his heart too. Furthermore, I know all the other ‘students,’ and they think the whole ‘class’ is great – every one, best friend material. Finally, I know the ‘teacher,’ and she loves my children to the moon and back. I know because I am her.

One of the best reasons to homeschool is your children will always be loved by the ‘principal,’ the ‘teacher,’ and the ‘other students.’ No one will love your children like you will, and that makes for a pretty amazing learning environment. So, why not start homeschooling today?

In Christ,