Why are you homeschooling?

A Heart of Dakota Life

Why are you homeschooling?

The answer to this question is so important to know, as it acts as a compass for our homeschooling. Knowing why we are homeschooling helps us find successes big and small in our school days. It helps us know when we’re accomplishing what we hope to accomplish. Likewise, it helps us make decisions better. We can go back to why we are homeschooling and see what decision best fits within that framework of goals. Using Heart of Dakota for homeschooling has helped me stay true to our reasons for homeschooling. So, here are my reasons for homeschooling, in no particular order of importance (other than #1 is #1)…

We want the Lord to be an integral part of our homeschooling!

He is not an extra, not a maybe, not an option, not a once in awhile – but the center of what we are learning.

Our homeschooling should be a place we can share our personal relationship with the Lord, often.

We want our homeschooling to help open the door for discussions about faith and Godly character qualities we desire in ourselves as well as our children. Likewise, we want to share the Good News of the Lord as much as possible in our homeschooling, as well as have ample Bibles, devotionals, Bible studies, praise music to adequately do so.

We want the atmosphere for our homeschooling to be the one we create within our own home.

This atmosphere should be one of important purpose, delight in learning, and a cheerful attitude toward our work in school together.

We want me to be the one who is responsible for the teaching of our children.

On the rare occasion I am unable to do this, we want a family member to be the teacher. We also want this person to teach within our own home, if at all possible.

We want to make homeschooling a priority by always having enough time for me to homeschool at home each day.

This means saying ‘no’ to other things sometimes, which is alright!  It also means carving out enough time to truly be able to homeschool each day by making my routine/schedule reflect that.

We want each of our children’s homeschooling work each year to be well-fitted to their individual needs.

Each child should be able to do what is asked of him each year confidently and successfully.

We want our children to encourage each other in their homeschooling.

Our family thinks time is always well spent listening to the stories/poems/narrations someone has written, clapping for someone’s performance, playing someone’s history project game, complimenting someone’s artwork, enjoying someone’s reading project, complimenting someone’s notebooking, asking questions about someone’s newly found knowledge in history/science/etc.

We want to homeschool our children all the way through high school, Lord willing.

Furthermore, we want to help them with their academic choices after high school, praying the Lord will provide guidance in this.

We want homeschooling to be a part of our life, not the whole of it.

We want to keep our homeschooling time focused and uninterrupted. This is important so we finish in a timely fashion. That way, I have time left in the day for personal interests and family time with my husband.

We want our own family and extended family to provide the socialization of our children as much as possible.

We want to take full responsibility for helping our children to learn good socialization skills. To do this, we need to choose to live near family. We also need to spend significant time with each other and with family members of all ages.

We want to encourage our children to be each other’s friends, as well as to encourage friendships among cousins.

To do this, we want to provide ample opportunity for them to spend time with us as well as to spend time together their cousins.

We want our homeschooling to be filled with excellent living books.

Using excellent literature in as many subject areas as possible keeps the love of learning strong all the way through high school.

We want hands-on learning to be a daily part of our homeschooling.

Having three sons, hands-on learning is especially important.

We want our homeschooling to gradually lead our children to successful independence within learning.

This helps our children be successful with secondary and post-secondary learning as well.

We want our homeschooling to prepare our sons to be strong providers for their future families.

Because of this, solid academics and training in good independent work habits is a must.


I made this list back in 2011! When my husband and I are faced with decisions big and small, we consider why we are homeschooling, and we try to make the best decision we can based on that.  Your list might be very different from this list, and that’s just fine!  There is no one right list.  As you get ready for your coming homeschool year and must make decisions big and small, consider making your own list. Second to prayer, it’s one of the best ways to make a clear decision.  I pray for us homeschool moms that the Lord will help us along our journey of homeschooling, as we all know it is not always easy. May we find the joy in knowing why we are homeschooling, and in doing what we need to do each day to make this happen!


In Christ,


Train Your Children During Extended Break Time!

Teaching Tip

How can you use your break time to train your children?

Are you taking some sort extended break time? If so, it is a good idea to think of this time as a training period for your children. You can use your time to train your children in habits that will help them have a better school year. Over the summer, I’ll share some possible training and scheduling tips to work on during this less scheduled season. These tips are designed to help your school year run more smoothly.

How can you use your summer to train your little ones?

My first tip is to spend time thinking of any little ones you may have in your home. Begin pondering ways that they can be directed during the day, so they are not continually underfoot! When our boys were younger, we had our older boys take a turn playing with our two younger ones. This equated to my oldest son having a 30 min. playtime with each of his two youngest siblings separately during the day. My second oldest son also had individual 30 min. playtimes with each of his two younger siblings each day.

What are the benefits of summer playtimes?

We kept the playtime routine in the summer too, and fine-tuned it so my boys knew what was allowed. This routine made the transition to “school” playtimes very easy! It also helped my older sons to be less self-centered with their time during the summer! Plus, it only took an hour out of each of my older sons’ days. My little ones really looked forward to their playtimes with the big boys.

How do “playtimes” transition to more mature “together time?”

As our sons have gotten older, our third son now has a playtime daily with his younger brother. Our older sons still do “playtimes” with their younger brothers, but the “playtimes” have matured. For “playtimes” now, the boys play basketball at the park, shoot nerf-guns outside, and play catch in the backyard. They go on bike rides, play X-Wing at the coffee shop, and paint models while listening to audio books. The boys draw and create together, swim, and film their own movies. These days the “playtimes” rotate to accommodate our older sons’ busy schedules. Try establishing a playtime routine with your little ones, and see what you think! We’ve seen the relationships they build last into adulthood.


HOD Guides: A Journey to Enjoy Not a Race to Complete

Top Ten Tips for Teaching Multiple Guides


Gain Teaching Time by Using Learning Stations with 3 to 6 Year-Olds

A Heart of Dakota Life

How to Gain an Hour of Teaching Time by Using Learning Stations with 3 to 6 Year-Olds

Many homeschool families have a wide age range of children, so placement in multiple guides just makes good sense! But, what can you do with little ones to gain teaching time with your olders? Little Hands to Heaven gives necessary mommy time with PreK kiddos, while also teaching necessary skills. However, what else can PreK kiddos do during the day? Well, a lot, really! I wanted my 4 year old to have an independent playtime (as he’s always with his big brothers). Additionally, I wanted more uninterrupted teaching time with my olders. I tried many different things, but he just didn’t stick with whatever I’d set out for more than 15 minutes. What could be done?  Learning stations, that’s what!

How to Set Up Different Learning Stations to Be Independently Rotated Through

One day, I had the idea to try setting up different learning stations for him to rotate through… and success!  He happily played for an hour right away. I honestly couldn’t believe it. He really just needed some variety and an order of what to do. This works well for a child who understands the order of numbers, and who is around 3-6 years old.

Pick a safe room and use numbered cards to designate different stations.

I picked a safe room that was near us but not RIGHT by us. We have a large entry room just off our kitchen we have childproofed, so that worked well for us. I numbered big index cards and folded them in half to tent them. I started with 5, but soon used up to 7. Then, I chose 5-7 varied activities for him to work through. Starting with a few short activities that had a definite end to them worked well. For example, #1 was a puzzle, and #2 was a card for him to practice writing his name once. These were at his little table and chairs.

Puzzles and Practice of Writing His Name

I picked a building activity for #3. For example, magnatiles. Sectioning off a spot for it on a blanket, I put the #3 tent card by it.  #4 was a book on tape, and I designated a spot for that with his little chair. I also put headphones there, so my middle ds wouldn’t be distracted by the story.

Headphones to Listen to Audio Books

For #5, he played with something that was more active, like his construction set. I sectioned that off with another blanket. For #6, he looked at a set of books he had not seen before. His bean bag chair and blanket sectioned this area off nicely. I told him to start with card #1 and do the activity. Then, he turned over the card when he was done and moved on to #2. I turned on his LHTH’s Singing Bible CD for him, and away he went. I checked on him a few times and snapped a few pics…

Building with Magnatiles 
Coloring Books
Use a variety of learning stations to keep things fresh and exciting!

By the fourth day of doing this, he headed right in there all on his own after we’d done LHTH. I wondered where he had disappeared to, as I was putting away his LHTH tub. There he was, happily putting together his puzzle at center #1! I changed out the things, but in general…

  • #1 was always a short puzzle type activity
  • #2 was a short fine motor skill type activity
  • #3 was always something more active to play with on a blanket
  • #4 was always a different book on tape in his little arm chair
  • #5 was always something more active to play with on a different blanket
  • #6 was always different books in his bean bag chair
  • If there was a #7, it was something active.
Older siblings can help set up learning stations.

My older kids liked to help me set up this or that for it too. I’d set it up right before we ate breakfast, so it was all ready to go. It took me about 5-10 minutes to set it up, as I’d put things near there for handy access. I also put a few stuffed animals at various centers, as he loved his buddies. One time, an hour had passed. I said his brother was ready to do his playtime with him (which he LOVED). He said with his hands on his hips, “But I’m not done yet! I still have #6 and #7 to do, and I really wanted to do them!”  I guess independent stations were working well for him!!!

Choose things they already know how to do fairly well. 

Finally, I think it is important to choose things that they know how to do. So, this isn’t the time for puzzles or coloring or writing skills that may be too hard for them. It also helps to change out the books, toys, and activities, choosing things they can be successful with. I just let him move on to the next one whenever he wanted to. Sometimes he was at one center for a very short time. But, that was alright, as he was at the next one longer. It all worked out.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share that past tip for us that was a wonderful help in our home!  If you are blessed enough to have a naturally independent child that just plays on his/her own with things, than this may not be necessary. But, if you have a child that needs a little help in this area, this may work for you too! It is my prayer that this could help some fellow busy homeschooling moms like yourselves.

In Christ,


P.S.  For fun ideas to use with toddlers, click here!

Sharing Time of Favorite Homeschool Assignments at the Kitchen Table

From Our House to Yours

Sharing Favorite Homeschool Assignments Around the Kitchen Table

Our children often naturally share what they are learning in their homeschool Heart of Dakota guides with each other. With a literature-based homeschool curriculum, the books are so engaging that conversation about them just happens. With Heart of Dakota, every subject is taught by reading excellent literature. So, with each retelling, students better retain happenings in history, science, literature, etc.  As we eat virtually every meal together, a common sharing place of what’s been learned is around our kitchen table.

Encouraging Discussions by Asking What Children Are Reading or Learning Lately

Lively discussions about books, authors, poets, history events, scientists’ discoveries, etc., are common and need no facilitation on my part. To encourage this type of conversation, I often ask what interesting things they’ve been learning lately. Of course I know what they’ve been learning, because I am the teacher of them all. But, it gives them a chance to informally share with one another what they remember most about what they’ve learned. That’s always interesting for me to hear!

Taking a Few Minutes to Share Favorite Assignments from the Day

One day this week, I asked each of them to share their favorite assignment they did for homeschool for the day. I also asked them to give a few reasons why it was their favorite. This was such fun for me to hear! Below are pictures of what they each shared, along with the reasons why they chose each of these as their favorites.

Wyatt: U.S. History II’s British Literature Prisoner of Zenda
This is my favorite U.S. History II assignment today because I…
  • love the book; the plot is amazing
  • like to give my opinion in my literature journal in response to questions, rather than fill in answers to questions
  • easy to do the night before school, as I love reading good books in my room before bed anyway
Riley: World Geography’s Book of Centuries Timeline Entries
This is my favorite World Geography assignment today because I…
  • love to color each of the pictures
  • like the idea of keeping this same book of timeline entries all through high school
  • enjoy reading the captions under the pictures
Emmett: Creation to Christ’s History Project Making of a Mezuzah
This is my favorite Creation to Christ assignment today because I…
  • like to make it, bake it, and add decorations to it
  • love to pull out my secret Scripture message as a big reveal when I show people
  • think it’s neat the Scripture message talks about Jesus’ resurrection because we just had Easter
Try a sharing time at your next lunch or dinner!

Conversation about Heart of Dakota’s learning requires little prompting. Once and awhile when you are together for a meal, consider having each of your children share their “favorite” of the day. There’s no judgment here. Anything can be a favorite! Also, no need to draw it out. A few minutes for each child is more than enough. The children enjoy it when I share my ‘favorites’ I had with each of them as well. I think because I’ve always been willing to do this, they don’t feel put on the spotlight and easily share.  We find lunch is a great time to facilitate sharing. However, dinner time is another wonderful time to share, as often times fathers are at this meal. I hope this helps you stop to enjoy sharing some favorites of Heart of Dakota once and awhile! Try it a few times, and you might be surprised how often it just begins to happen on its own!


In Christ,


Fun Ideas for Homeschool Kids for Free Time Activities Outdoors

Dear Carrie,

I have a son and 2 daughters and need some ideas of things they could do in their free time. Mostly, they need to get moving a bit, especially my son. They all love to read, thanks to Heart of Dakota! But, I am seeing that they need some extra physical activities or things to do together. I’m very careful with our homeschool family time and don’t add in organized sports, dance, or clubs. I try to encourage them to hang out together and enjoy our family time. We don’t have a bunch of friends close, so they don’t go play outside as much as I would like. We play at the park, and we try to do some family tennis, basketball, and swimming together. But, what other ideas  might be fun or engaging to do outdoors?


“Please Share Some Free Time Ideas”

Dear “Please Share Some Free Time Ideas,”

I would be glad to share some free time ideas for outdoor activities!  You must be a kindred spirit with Charlotte Mason, as she was a proponent of outdoor activities!  First, I will share I require our boys to play outside daily after lunch for an hour. They split the time typically into two 30-minute segments. Since we have 4 boys, each gets to choose what to do for 30 minutes outdoors every other day. If you have three kiddos, you could do three 20-minute segments instead. Each child would then get to choose what to do for 20 minutes of the 60 minute recess.

Activities That Work Well with Limited Space at Home

Since we live in town, our boys have more limited space. We’ve found these activities work well under these conditions for most the seasons…

  • scooter and bike around the cul-de-sac
  • throw Ogo-discs in the backyard (which are similar to frisbees but float much easier)
  • play badminton
  • hit a tennis ball back and forth on the driveway
  • play catch with the baseball
  • play hotbox
  • throw the football
  • football two-hand touch mini-games
  • mini-soccer games in our backyard
  • nerf gun wars
  • bump and set the volleyball around
  • swim in our above ground pool in the summer with games they make up (this is just an inexpensive Intek pool they all can get in it and swim daily in the summer)
Other Outdoor Activities That Are Fun and Free 

Additionally, we go to the park once a week with the cousins. In the summer, my husband also takes the older boys and cousins to the basketball courts. They play basketball at 6:30 or 7 in the morning before work or school begins. Otherwise, our boys do all their recesses right in our front or backyard. They’ve learned to be creative with their time and their space, as they realize this is something done daily. I also require them to be moving for recess. So, no one gets to spend recess just sitting around. In the winter, they build snow forts, have snowball fights, and slide on their sleds right in our yard. Our yard is flat, so sledding across the yard is truly hard work!!

Normal Routine Things Can Give Needed Fresh Air and Outdoor Exercise

As you can see, we do fairly normal things, yet the boys get needed outdoor fresh air and exercise daily. With my older sons being 22 and 19, it is easier now to have outdoor time. They can keep an eye on the other boys without me having to go outside with them daily. It is good for my older sons to get fresh air and exercise and to spend time with their brothers. My oldest chooses to keep up this daily “recess” time simply because he feels it is so good for him.

Solving Problems Gives the Opportunity to Teach Good Sportsmanship

Of course, there are issues and arguments that arise at recess, and my oldest son sorts many of them out. Sometimes my kiddos are hard-pressed about what to do at recess, and then I intervene and make some suggestions. We do have discussions about attitudes and rules, but I look at those moments as character-training and problem-solving moments. When I taught in the public school, we had recess issues and arguments daily. Learning good sportsmanship can be a definite challenge no matter when or how you try to learn it! However, the benefits of recess outweigh the challenges, as it is imperative for boys especially to run off energy daily.

Daughters Need Fresh Air and Outdoor Activities Too

Since you have daughters, I’ll share my sisters spent much time hitting a birdie back and forth with badminton racquets. We’d count how many hits we could get in a row before dropping the birdie. Bumping and setting a volleyball back and forth was also something we enjoyed. We loved to count the number of times we could hit it before it landed on the ground. Croquet was another favorite of ours. My dad also pounded a wooden beam into the ground horizontally on short wooden supports as a balance beam. It wasn’t very high off the ground, actually only 6 inches or so – maybe even less. We spent much time walking back and forth on it, trying tricks like handstands on it.

We spent a ton of time cartwheeling, doing round-offs, and practicing handstands. My sisters and I also had hula-hoops that we actually practiced enough to get pretty good at using. My younger sister, Julie, could spin it around her knees and even her ankles for long periods of time! We used to count how many rotations we made before the hula hoop landed on the ground. Then, we’d try to beat our own personal best number. It seems we counted everything!! Anyway, just a few ideas to get you thinking of possibilities. In fact, this thread has gotten me thinking of some new ways to spice up our outdoor play. I think I may be looking for a bocce ball or croquet set now too.