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.



Turn to ‘Team Family’ to Create a Home Full of More Unity and Joy

A Heart of Dakota Life

Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

– Psalm 133:1

                             ‘Team Family’ Unite
Who do you turn to if you want to create a family full of unity and joy?

Life is just more enjoyable when it is full of unity instead of strife!  Heart of Dakota homeschooling can be full of peace and joy, but life at home has many responsibilities.  Homeschooling is unique in this way, as families truly dwell more together in their homes.  There are more meals to make, more messes to clean, more things to pick up… more, more, more!  But, there are also more times to talk, more opportunities to pray, and more chances to impact our children’s lives.  The good ‘more’ outweighs the stressful ‘more,’ but we homeschool mothers cannot bear the load alone.  So, who can you turn to if you want to create a home full of unity and joy? Something every homeschool mother has.  Team Family, that’s who!!!  

What tasks need to be completed?

There are many tasks to be done, and God has equipped each family member to help.  It is a good idea to put pen to paper to list tasks that need to be completed.  Rather listing every little thing that comes to mind, instead start by listing the tasks you would most like completed.  Yes, we’d all love our closets and drawers to be neatly organized.  But, a sink full of dishes or overflowing trash trumps the less than perfect closet in the day to day.  So, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and do some research for the day.  What drives you crazy that is not getting done or that is not getting done consistently?  Those are the tasks that need to be completed, and they’re the only ones that make it on the paper for now.

           Unloading the Dishwasher
Which member of the family do you turn to first?

So, how do you decide who does what?  Choosing wisely depends on age, interests, time, and ability.  There are certain tasks that age determines which family member is assigned to the task.  For example, my 18 year old is the only family member that can use our skid steer to clear snow.  Interests also play a part.  So for example, my 11 yo loves to mop the floor (he did not get this interest from me).  It just makes sense to assign him this task no one else enjoys.  Likewise, the time of the task makes a difference.  So for instance, my 15 year old doesn’t enjoy the outdoor chores as much.  As he is indoors while the other boys do outdoor chores, he has the time to help with breakfast. Finally, ability comes into play.  God has gifted each person with unique abilities, and it is wise to match tasks to family members accordingly.

          Making Breakfast Smoothies
What are the tasks that make it on my need-to-be completed list?

Top ten must-be-done tasks for homeschooling to go smoothly (from morning to evening) and who should do them

  1. beds made and rooms picked up; all
  2. dishwasher unloaded; 11 yo
  3. garbages taken out; 15 yo
  4. dogs/cat let out and fed; 11 yo and 18 yo
  5. mail brought in and letters mailed; 18 yo
  6. driveway cleared of snow; 11 yo and 18 yo
  7. breakfast help; 15 yo
  8. meal clean-up help; all
  9. homeschool help; 15 yo and 18 yo
  10. cleansweep before bed; all
                  Storytime Reading
Why were the tasks assigned to the Team Family member they were assigned?

Top ten must-be-done tasks and why they are assigned to whom they are

  1. age: everyone is now old enough to do this and should be responsible for their room
  2. ability:  11 yo has unloaded the dishwasher since he was 5; always have the youngest person able do the task
  3. time:  he can do this while the others do outdoor chores
  4. interest: both love outdoor chores and time together doing them
  5. age and ability: between the 11 yo and 18 yo doing outdoor chores, he’s the one who won’t drop or lose the mail
  6. age and ability:  18 yo is the only one able to run the skid steer; 11 yo can help shovel smaller areas
  7. interest: 15 yo loves to make smoothies and prefers indoor chores
  8. age, ability, interest, and time:
    • 18 yo washes big dishes and loads dishwasher
    • 15 yo drys the larger dishes, puts them away, and wipes table
    • 11 yo clears the table and vacuums the kitchen floor
  9. ability and interest:
    • 18 yo teaches 15 yo Algebra because he LOVES math
    • 15 or 18 yo sometimes reads aloud Storytime to 11 yo
    • 15 yo does science experiments with 11 yo because he loves this
  10. age: each person is responsible for picking up the house before bed and always has been
Look to Team Family to create a home full of unity and joy!

So, as you make your top ten must-be-done list, look to Team Family for help!  Don’t let age be a deterrent.  Even from very young ages our children have helped with must-be-done tasks.  Finally, my husband is a huge part of Team Family!  However, his job prevents him from helping much with the day-to-day of managing the home and homeschooling.  So, turning to my children, who are always home with me, is just practical!  Hope this helps you turn to your Team Family to create a home full of more unity and joy!!

In Christ,


P.S. For more helpful tips from Carrie on having an efficient chore routine, click here!

P.S.S. For more helpful tips from Carrie on having a good breakfast, lunch, and chore routine, click here!