Are you a fast talker? Try slowing down!

From Our House to Yours

Are you a fast talker? Try slowing down!

Those of you who have called Heart of Dakota or met me in person probably know, I am a fast talker. I come from a family of fast talkers! Not only am I a fast talker, I am a fast mover. My car is barely in park, and I’m throwing open the door. If I need something from the basement, move out of the way! I’m coming down the stairs… fast. I have good intentions! Truly, I just want to get the most out of life. The trouble is, sometimes a fast pace is good, and sometimes it is not. How about you? Are you a fast talker, and a mover and a shaker? Well, you might want to try slowing it down now and then! It could make a big difference in how certain children do in homeschooling!

If you are a fast talker, slowing down might be hard to do!

I have learned to take time to purposely slow down. Sitting in my rocking chair on my porch petting Sweetie Pie, my cat, for awhile, for example, has been a good slow down for me. Dating my hubby once a week has been another good slow down for me. Watching a t.v. show or movie with my sons each week has been yet another good slow down for me. However, slowing down this fast talker has been a little harder!

What does being a fast talker have to do with homeschooling?

If you’ve hung with me so far, thank you. I’m about to do some fast talking and get to the point. What does being a fast talker have to do with homeschooling? Well, a few weeks ago I would have told you nothing. However, that was a few weeks ago. Today, I would tell you being a fast talker has a LOT to do with homeschooling! You see, I made an incredible discovery while teaching my youngest son, Emmett. I noticed he was catching bits and pieces of what I was saying. I always thought this was a focus issue. However, we are using for Pre-Algebra, and the online teacher speaks v-e-r-y slowly. Emmett is retaining math terms better than ever! Somehow, it must have been the good Lord’s prompting, I realized how I tend to talk much, much faster than the online math teacher. Hmmmm.

I decided to try an experiment!

R & S English has oral questions I ask at the start of every lesson. The questions are largely vocabulary-driven. I already knew it helped Emmett to study the questions and answers before I met with him. However, after trying this all last year, I realized this study method really worked better for my middle son, Riley. For Emmett, it was still somewhat hit and miss with what he remembered, and he didn’t like it. So, I decided to try an experiment. I slowed down my fast talking. I simply asked the questions quite slowly, pausing after phrases even. It was incredible! After just a few weeks of this, Emmett is answering everything correctly! Next, I tried slowing down my fast talking with dictation. Amazing! He is doing better than ever! Finally, I slowed down my oral discussion questions in DITHOR and in history. I also let him see the questions in the guides. Eureka! Emmett is answering questions like a champ!

If you’re a fast talker, try slowing down your talking, and see if it helps!

Are you a fast talker? If you are and you are thinking your kiddos don’t concentrate or focus well, try slowing down your talking! It is a simple experiment well worth trying. I want to stress that Emmett is an intelligent, creative boy. He is just a deep thinker who likes to take his time processing things. He’s also a teenager who has grown over 7 inches in the past year. Anyway, as homeschool moms we can test out hunches like this. Slowing down my talking and letting my son see the questions as I ask them (at least for history and for DITHOR) has helped Emmett make incredible strides in comprehension and retention! If you’re a fast talker like me, consider slowing things down; you might see a real change too!

In Christ,


How do you move through an English lesson in a timely fashion?

Dear Carrie

How do you move through an English lesson in a timely fashion?

All is going well with Heart of Dakota – off to a great start! However, I have some questions about how to move through an R & S English 4 lesson in a timely fashion. Do you do all of the oral review questions, the oral assignment questions, and the written assignment questions? Today, for example, we did the oral, but then the written was almost identical. It seemed like I was having my son do double the work. I’m also struggling on writing assignment days. They seem to take much longer, and I usually need two days for each of the writing assignments. I have my son write his story. Then, I correct it and go over it with him. Finally, I have him re-write it correctly. I know this is all taking way longer than it should. So, my question is, how do you move through an English lesson in a timely fashion? Thanks in advance!


Ms. Please Help Me Move Through English More Quickly”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Move Through English More Quickly,”

We do the 5 oral questions at the beginning of each lesson, and then we do the entire lesson. However, we do most of the entire lesson orally. This means that we do the sections marked as “Written Exercises” orally too. I only choose one small section in each lesson to have my kiddos do in writing. To do the written exercises orally, I just have my kiddos say the answers instead of writing them. I often read the sentences aloud in the exercises, and then have my child quickly say the answers right after me. My reading parts aloud to them keeps their attention and keeps the lesson moving quickly. Before the lesson begins, however, I have my kiddos read the first part of the lesson to themselves. This way they are prepared for what is to come. This all helps us move through English more quickly!

We diagram sentences on the white board to move through diagramming more quickly.

We often diagram together on the white board, which helps us move more quickly through the lesson. I might just draw the diagram lines and have my kiddos point and say where the various words will go. This procedure has allowed us to keep Rod and Staff English very manageable. Even at the upper levels like English 6-8, we move very quickly through the lesson; we don’t exceed 30 to 40 minutes total on most days for both oral and written work. It is true though that review lessons and writing days take longer.

To move lessons along quickly if you are running behind, you could do the rest of the written work orally.

I do think another factor around English 4 is that students have not really cemented their English skills yet, so their answering doesn’t come as quickly. They are having to think harder to remember and English is not naturally a part of their skill-base yet. So, for some kiddos it may take longer at the English 4 and 5 level until they become more familiar with what is being asked of them. Don’t despair! If your lessons are running long, you could do evens or odds for awhile. However, in the long haul I’d try not to make skipping a practice. I would set a goal not to exceed 30 minutes at this stage. If you see you are coming close to that time and are not done for the day, omit any written work and just do it all orally. This is another technique I use when running behind. I want to encourage you, you will see such progress with these few tips!


Pacing for No-Nonsense Algebra

Dear Carrie

What pacing would you suggest for No-Nonsense Algebra?

I am using No-Nonsense Algebra with my 8th grader. This is my first year homeschooling, and I was looking through the book. Carrie, have you used this with your child? Do we have the child do one section a day? I am hoping it will not be too hard for him. Any advice would be appreciated!!


“Ms. Please Help with Pacing on No-Nonsense Algebra”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Pacing on No-Nonsense Algebra,”

Congratulations on beginning your homeschool journey with Heart of Dakota! No-Nonsense Algebra’s text is broken up into sections that you can just move through at a pace of one per day if desired. It is important to watch the video first and then do the lesson. My oldest son worked through this program for his 8th grade year when it was first out, and it worked well to set the foundation for algebra.

Like any math program, it may not suit all learners. However, in situations where students either need a first pass through algebra prior to high school, or for students who struggle with math and need a no-nonsense approach to getting through algebra, this text works well. Often with any math text, kiddos are taking more from the lessons than we think. Although, sometimes this doesn’t show up until later! For many kiddos, algebra can be frustrating on its first pass through. This is because maturity has much to do with a child’s ability to think and reason at the level required for algebra. Often, just growing a year or two older does as much for a child as the specific program being used.

With my oldest son, we did do VideoText Algebra after No-Nonsense Algebra, which is an option you could also consider. He finished No-Nonsense Algebra early and was able to begin VideoText during the end of his 8th grade year. For us, this worked well. With my second oldest son, we did Foerster’s Algebra, which is another option you could consider.


Tips on What Order Works Well for the Boxes of Plans

Heart of Dakota Life

Tips on What Order Works Well for the Boxes of Plans

I love this time of year when I get to put together my homeschool schedule! The organizer in me comes to life, and I begin to craft my schedule to best fit our stage of life. Some things in my schedule change every year, but others remain the same. As you craft your schedule, I thought I’d share some tips on what order has worked well for us for the boxes of Heart of Dakota’s¬†plans!

Try putting the Bible box of plans first! Then, follow up with the Corresponding Music box of plans!

God’s rightful place in our lives is first, so why not put the Bible box of plans first in our day?!? Whenever possible, I schedule Bible as the first box of plans for each child to complete. I want our children to learn to have their own personal Bible Quiet Time as a lifelong habit. It is my prayer that this habit continues long after our homeschooling is done. I have my sons do the Corresponding Music after/with their Bible Quiet Time or Bible Study, as these go together.

My son, Emmett, loves wood-working. I have said so often that I want to put God first in my day that he made me a little wooden cross. He suggested I put it on my end table next to my bed. Every morning I wake up, I see that little wooden cross. It reminds me that after all Jesus has done for me, the least I can do is start my day with Him! I want my children to do the same, and starting with the Bible box of plans and Corresponding Music conveys that!

Keep the Reading About History box of plans and the follow-up History box of plans together!

The Reading About History box of plans provides the backbone for all of the left side of plans. The follow-up history box(es) of plans are meant to be done after the reading of the books in the Reading About History box. In the younger guides, there is one rotating history box of plans. It is directly underneath the Reading About History box of plans, and it works great to do this box right after reading the history book.

In the older guides starting with Preparing Hearts for His Glory, there are multiple boxes of history plans. Each box of plans has its own purpose and teaches its own skill. After reading the history, it is a good idea to the rotating box of plans. The rotating history box of plans is found on the left side of the guide. In Preparing Hearts for His Glory, for example, the rotating boxes of history plans are Research, Vocabulary, Geography, and Timeline. After completing the rotating history box of plans, it is nice to do the History Project box of plans. This flow has a beginning reading, a rotating follow-up, and an ending project – all connecting the history theme beautifully!

Other Tips on What Order to Do the Boxes of Plans

There is a lot of leeway in how to choose to do the rest of the boxes of plans. I like to rotate seat work things with active, hands-on things whenever possible. Especially for active children, I like to keep things moving! I also like to alternate disciplinary and inspirational subjects. Click here to read more about that! If you are like me and are teaching multiple guides, I find it helpful to end with something my child can finish independently. For example, I might end my teaching block with the History Project because I can get my child started and then walk away to help another child as he finishes his project.

Finally, I take into consideration what might be too much in a row for particular children. For example, my older two sons liked to do their dictation, grammar, and math all in a row. My younger son did NOT like this! It was too much in a row for him. Another example – as a young child, one of my sons was a strong reader but not a strong writer. For this child, I spread out his writing. If he did a written narration in history, I made sure not to put his formal writing curriculum assignment next. A final example – one of my sons lost focus when reading too many books in a row. For this child, I spread out his reading. For example, I would have him do his DITHOR reading after lunch. Hope these tips help as you ponder what order you’d like to do the boxes of plans!

In Christ,

Our guides take advantage of the “beginning of the school year” enthusiasm!

Teaching Tip:

Our guides take advantage of “beginning-of-the-school-year” enthusiasm!

If you are considering placing your child in one of our guides, here is a tip that is good to know. I planned each guide to take advantage of the enthusiasm the start of a new school year brings. So, at the start of a new guide, we really hit the skills hard and build on them incrementally throughout the year. This means the first week of plans is a good indicator of how difficult a guide is overall.

Rather than beginning with review, our guides jump in and get going right away!

Rather than starting with review, and beginning with easy things, our guides jump right in and get going right away. The benefit of this approach is that kiddos can work on mastering the skills in our guides all year long. This approach is good for the parent too, as you can see where you need your student to be by the time the guide ends.

Time spent training your students during the first week is time well-spent.

During the first week, it is helpful to spend some time training students in what the guide is asking. Since each guide has a definite pattern and repeating set of skills, time spent training students to complete the guide successfully is time well-spent.

As students discover the pattern of a guide, the guide takes less time.

As students begin to sense the pattern of a guide, they get into a rhythm. Things begin to fall into place. As the year progresses, students are able to complete their work in less time. As students master needed skills, the quality of their work improves too.

If your start to the year is rocky, hang in there!

If your start to a new guide is rocky, just hang in there! It should get better as you go. Your children should seem to thrive more as time passes. It is how the guides are designed to work! If for some reason your children continue to be overwhelmed in a guide, it may be time to rethink their placement.