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,

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

From Our House to Yours

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy Your Homeschool Life – Right Now

Making plans to enjoy your homeschool life might sound silly. Especially if you equate ‘fun’ with ‘sporadic’ and ‘unplanned,’ this concept of making plans to have fun might seem depressing. However, as busy as life is for most homeschool moms, I think making ‘plans’ to enjoy your homeschool life might be the only way you really DO enjoy it! The first part of making plans to enjoy my homeschool life is picking a curriculum I enjoy. Heart of Dakota takes care of that! Another part of enjoying my homeschool life is just making sure I have time to homeschool. However, what I do within that set aside time is a big part of enjoying my days as well. Likewise, taking time off to have breaks in homeschooling is yet another big part of enjoying my overall homeschool life. If you are not enjoying your homeschool life, the good news is, you can – and right now! But, how?

How to Make Plans to Enjoy Your Homeschool Days

Each homeschool day has Heart of Dakota plans to complete, and I enjoy my days most when we successfully finish those plans. However, how we go about completing those plans makes a big difference in how much I enjoy our days! To enjoy my days, I had to first think about what my children and I really enjoy. For example, to finish my plans and to be to work on time, I need to plan to start my day early. However, to plan to enjoy starting my day early, I plan to first make my favorite hazelnut cup of coffee and take it up to my room. I also plan to teach in my room in my pj’s while drinking that coffee. I love this relaxed start to my day, so I can actually enjoy starting at 6:15 AM (first with my Bible Quiet Time, and then with my children arriving one at a time in segments from 6:50 to 7:50 AM). My kids love this start too!

How to Plan for Small Vignettes of ‘Fun’ to Enjoy Throughout Your Day

So, I already shared my first ‘vignette of fun’ involving coffee and pj’s. My second vignette of fun I plan for is our break at 8:45 AM. I love listening to Christian praise music! I also love hearing my sons sing, hum, or whistle along! Cooking/baking is another thing I love! So, this second vignette of fun for me is turning on Christian music while I make breakfast and drink favorite coffee #2. My sons love music while they do their chores and love eating homemade breakfasts, so this is fun for them too! A third vignette of fun for me is simply reading aloud HOD materials on the couch. I turn on the fireplace, we grab fuzzy blankets, and I’m usually drinking favorite coffee #3 at this time.

My third vignette of fun is just a break alone for me and for my sons. Emmett, my youngest son, loves to make homemade hot cocoa. So, around 11 AM, he takes a break to make hot cocoa with whipped cream, marshmallows, and even sprinkles sometimes. He puts them all on a tray and takes them to our addition. They’ve kind of turned this into a ‘boys’ club‘ meeting, no mom allowed time. Fine with me. I am having a break of my own! No plans. Just a break for whatever. No more coffee though (I had you worried, didn’t I?!?). My fourth vignette of fun is exercise. I know, not everyone thinks of exercise as fun, but I do! So, from around noon to 12:30 or so, I exercise while my sons work on independent work.

How to Make ‘Plans’ to Enjoy ‘Unplanned’ Days

I sometimes equate ‘fun’ with sporadic and unplanned. However, taking off unplanned days often means we don’t finish our school year on time. So, my way around this is to make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days.’ I do this by adding about 7 or more extra days before the end date we want for our school year. That way, I know I have at least 7 days throughout the year that I can just take off at any time. Sometimes I surprise the boys and say, “We’re taking today off! What should we do?!?  Where should we go?!?”  Other days, I surprise them the night before, letting them know we’re sleeping in and taking a lazy day off at home tomorrow, to do ‘whatever’ anyone wants to do. Finally, I make ‘plans’ to enjoy ‘unplanned days’ for each of our birthdays, Valentine’s Day, days around Christmas, fishing/hunting days, etc. We have no set plans on these days, other than we are taking them off.

Life is meant to be enjoyed – today!

Jesus said, …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)  Life is meant to be enjoyed – today! It will not do to tell yourself you will enjoy your life when                        (fill in the blank – i.e. when the kids are older, when we move, when there is a job change, when my youngest graduates, when we don’t have so many little ones, when I’m not pregnant, when I’m done homeschooling, when my husband retires, when I’m healthier). Jesus does not intend for us to put enjoying our life on hold. He came that we may have life, to the fullest, today! If you are downtrodden, if you find yourself complaining about your life, make a change! Or, make lots of changes! Even my Dad, with pancreatic cancer, tried very hard to enjoy his life. This was not possible every day. However, he did enjoy most days! People visited him and left happier than they came.

What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now?

So, let’s brainstorm! What can you do to enjoy your homeschool life, right now? We often think we need big changes, but in reality, little changes pack a big punch! I know a homeschool mom of 6 who plans to run down her country road. She loves it! She ‘plans’ for this every day, even though she has always had a baby in the mix. This is her vignette of fun! Another mom I know sleeps in while her husband teaches math. He loves math! She loves sleeping in! It works. When I had many littles, I loved to take walks with the stroller. I had picnics on blankets on the living room floor. Sometimes just a planned nap (for me) was heavenly! Moving my teaching time around and having my oldest play with my middle son while my baby napped made this possible! Don’t wait to enjoy your homeschooling. Or you may not be doing it next year. Enjoy your life – now! A happier mom makes a happier home. So, please! Make plans to enjoy your homeschool life – today!

In Christ,

A Practically Perfect Homeschool Life

A Heart of Dakota Life

A Perfect Homeschool Life

It’s that time of year again!  Time to start my homeschool year and to make the perfect plan that makes all my dreams come true!  I put on my rose-colored glasses and put pen to paper to plan all I hope my homeschool year will be. My year begins to unfold before my very eyes. I write lofty goals, as I envision my perfect homeschool year. In my mind, I wake up well-rested to sunshine and blue skies. I shut off my alarm before it even rings – I’m just that excited to start my day!  My Bible Quiet Time and prayer time come next, as I prepare my heart and mind for all the day may hold. Then, I wake my children cheerfully, throw open their curtains, and whip up a healthy, homemade breakfast they adore. While the breakfast is bubbling and baking away, I skip downstairs to run 4 miles on my treadmill. We all happily arrive at breakfast punctually at the same time, showered and looking just so, chores all complete, and ready to greet our day!

A Practically Perfect Homeschool Life

I love to dream of my ideal homeschool life, but there is only one problem! It’s just not practical. In fact, the perfect day is pretty rare, and lofty out-of- reach plans just leave me feeling like a failure. So, I have traded in my perfect homeschool life for a practically perfect homeschool life. And you know what? I’m a whole lot happier!  I put pen to paper with plans that are practical, yet full of most of what I really want them to be.

When I know I will be teaching the next morning, I try to get to bed on time. I pick a start time that is early but not so early I can never really start on time. My alarm must be set, or the reality is I might not wake up. I do wake my children, quickly, with a hug and a kiss, but then promptly head downstairs for a strong cup of coffee.  A quick Bible time, a 1 mile jog on the treadmill once and awhile, breakfasts that are sometimes homemade and sometimes healthy but probably not both, prayer in my shower, and all of us arriving at breakfast about the same time with most our chores done – that’s perfect for me in a practical way.

Enjoy Planning Your Practically Perfect Homeschool Life

Rather than planning your perfect homeschool life, why not enjoy planning your practically perfect homeschool life? Make goals, but try to be practical about them. Set a schedule, but be practical by including margin for unplanned interruptions. Try a routine, but be practical by adding some wiggle room in it knowing it probably won’t go just so. Include some healthy goals, like getting enough sleep, having some healthy meals, attempting to exercise, etc., but be practical!  These things probably won’t happen daily.  Do the same with your homeschool subjects and with your children. Plan practically rather than perfectly. Take 2 weeks to do 1 week of plans to give grace to both you and to your children as you figure out your new guides. Most of all, plan for God to ultimately make your plans each day – after all, His plans are best, and they ARE actually perfect! It just makes good practical sense to follow them.

In Christ,


Pacing of the World History Literature Plans

Dear Carrie

Can you explain the pacing of the World History literature plans?
We’ve enjoyed using Heart of Dakota for many years, and we are looking ahead to World History. From the past year, I’m assuming students do written narrations for the literature plans. However, I am wondering how often written narrations are scheduled? Looking at the online sample week, I see it isn’t scheduled. So, I am guessing it isn’t weekly. Also, about how much literature reading is scheduled on average each day? I’m just thinking ahead to next year, and I’m trying to figure out if my son will be able to handle the reading pace. I think he will be up to a little more challenge, but I’m not sure how much of a challenge. Maybe I will have to slow the pace down, so it’s not so much each day. Then again, I’m always surprised at how much he grows each year in HOD. I may totally be overthinking this!
“Ms. Please Explain the Pacing of the World History Literature Plans”
Dear “Ms. Please Explain the Pacing of the World History Literature Plans,”

We are enjoying the World History (WH) Literature box this year in our own home! I know it is hard to tell from the first week of plans online how the literature in the WH Guide is set up. This is simply because the first week is a training week for the varying components in the literature box. So, I’d be glad to explain the pacing. On Days 1, 3, and 4, I kept the pattern quite similar with the literature box broken up into “Introduce,” “Read and Annotate,” “Select,” and “Reflect.”

Days 1, 3, and 4:  Introduce, Read and Annotate, Select, and Reflect

“Introduce” gives a little background or something to watch for or think about in the day’s reading. “Read and Annotate” assigns pages to be read and expects the students to annotate as they read. Often one annotation is given to the kiddos to help them learn to annotate better and to key them into important nuances within the narrative. “Select” requires students to select a passage to copy in their Common Place Book. “Reflect” is a written Literature Journal style reflection based on the day’s reading with topics ranging from Biblical/life applications to literary themes/elements to character motives/descriptors to Scripture connections/Godly character traits, etc. There is quite a bit of flexibility built into the length of the students’ responses to the “Reflect” part of the plans.

Day 2: Oral or Written Narrations

On Day 2, I have students do either an oral narration or a written narration. I alternate these narration types by week, and I include some given topics from the reading on which to reflect as a part of the narration.

Plan about 45 minutes to 1 hour a day for Literature.

Typically, we plan for the Literature box to take students around 45 minutes to 1 hour a day. Of course, faster readers may be done sooner, and slower readers will take longer. Rod and Staff Grammar/Essentials in Writing alternate daily, taking an additional 30 minutes daily. Together these comprise the “English” credit and take about 1 hour 15 minutes (up to 1 hour 30 minutes) daily.

We worked to make the design and daily assignments of the literature plans meet college entrance requirements.

I planned the times for Literature in the World History guide to be similar to the times I’ve outlined above. Again, I realize variances in reading speed will effect the actual time literature takes daily. We have worked to make sure that the the design and daily assignments of our literature plans meet college preparatory requirements, encompass needed literary skills, include classic works that are worthy of being read, and challenge students appropriately for the high school level.

It helps to remember public school students’ time requirements.

When thinking how much time literature is taking daily in your high school student’s schedule, it helps to remember that students in the public school sector spend 50 minutes in literature class 5 days a week and often have additional reading in the evening. Many high school students also have a required summer reading list of classics, and they are expected to read “x” number of classics prior to school beginning. With these things in mind, along with the fact that students are doing school 4 days a week rather than 5 with Heart of Dakota, you can see how much time literature is expected to take daily from a typical high school perspective. Therefore, we try to keep these things in mind as we write.

I pray the literature plans may be a blessing to your family!

I pray that the literature in our high school guides may be a blessing to your family! It was very challenging and rewarding for me to write the literature portion of the World History guide’s plans, as it was a very time consuming type of reading/writing/planning. Yet, my son who is doing the WH guide this year says he really loves the literature part of his day, and I love the morals, values, thematic and Scriptural application, and just plain old great classics that this year of plans contains! So, happy reading to you and your son!


4 Day Week Plans

Heart of Dakota Tidbit

4 Day Week Plans

Did you know that from our guide called “Preparing Hearts for His Glory” on up all of our guides have 4 day weeks? Some families use the 5th day of the week for music lessons or to have free for doctor appointments. Our family chooses to school 5 days a week so that we can shorten our school year.

Have a good weekend!