As you begin planning a schedule for school…be realistic!

Teaching Tip 

As you begin planning a schedule for school…be realistic!

It is so easy to make a perfect school schedule on paper that falls apart in practice!  So, here are a few tips to help you make a more realistic schedule.

Consider whether you are a morning person.

When making a “school” schedule, be sure to take into account whether you are a morning person.  Then, set a realistic start time for your days. I am not a morning person!  So, for me breakfast at 9:00 with teaching at 9:30 is realistic. It is better to make a plan you can stick to rather than a “wishful” plan that quickly falls by the wayside.

Consider your child’s best work times.

It is also wise to take note of your child’s best work time.  Is your child a morning person?  Or, does he/she do better with a slower start? It is a good idea to schedule accordingly. For example, don’t schedule a child who has a hard time getting going in the A.M. with his/her hardest subjects first.

Consider your little ones first.

When planning for school, often our first thought is to schedule the school-age children.  If you have a 2 or 3 year old, it is more important to schedule that little one first.  If we expect our little ones to just “go with the flow,” what will happen?  A busy 2 or 3 year old can drag everyone else along as he/she quickly derails the day!

Spend some time over the next week noticing when you and your children are at your best.

As you begin mulling over a schedule, remember to be realistic with your expectations! Your year will run more smoothly if you schedule both you and your children when you are at your best!


Taking Time Off From Teaching

Teaching Tip

Why is it important to take time off?

As summer has arrived in South Dakota, I’m reminded of the importance of taking time off from schooling. Like us, you may follow a typical school calendar; or, maybe you school year-round instead. Either way, it is a good idea to take at least a month off during your school year to recharge.

How does having time off help your school year go better?

I find I am much more focused during my “school year,” if I have had some time off to regroup. During our break, my kiddos read endless books for pleasure. They play outside, swim, play strategic board games, bake, bike, and work on projects. My boys love their time off, and so do I. It helps us all focus better on school when it rolls around again.

Taking time off helps you recharge for the school year.

So, I encourage you to make sure to take some time for both you and your children to recharge. We take several months off in the summer. Then, we are very focused during our school year once it begins. With this schedule, we take little to no breaks until summer rolls around again. Whatever your schedule, be sure to make time to have a more lengthy break! You may be surprised after your break at how ready you are to start school again.


PS: Check out this post from the Heart of Dakota Message Board if you are concerned about not finishing the guide by the end of the school year.

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 minute playtime with each of his two youngest siblings separately during the day. My second oldest son also had individual 30 minute 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

Teaching Tip

Think of the Heart of Dakota guides as a journey to enjoy rather than a race to complete.

Are you getting closer to the end of your school year? If so, you may feel like rushing or cramming things in to finish your guide by a designated time. I encourage you to resist that urge. Instead, think of the sequence of Heart of Dakota guides as a journey to be enjoyed each step of the way. One guide’s skills will prepare your child well for the next guide to come. So, it’s best to use each guide to its fullest along the way.

Do you feel like rushing or doubling up days to finish your guide on time?

You may have had a year full of life’s unexpected surprises, or maybe you began Heart of Dakota later in your year. Either way, there is little benefit to doubling up days or doing multiple days in one in order to finish “on-time.” However, there is a huge benefit to solidly teaching the skills that are wound within each guide one day at a time. This steady progress forward will help students practice and form skills they will need life-long!

So what should you do if you find yourself “behind” in your progress by “year-end”?

First of all, accept where you truly are in the guide. No amount of rushing will change that fact. Second, make a realistic plan to teach a day within a day until your designated break date. During your break, reassess whether your children are still correctly placed in their current guide(s). Most likely, their current placement will still be best. If you have gotten very far off track for an extended period of time, it is possible that your children may need to be placed in a different guide. Third, after your break, either pick the guide back up where you left off or begin your new guide(s). In this journey, steady progress forward pays big dividends.

What did our family do when we were “behind”?

I share this tip with you, because I know from personal experience what it’s like to be “behind.”

In one of our years of schooling, we were behind by 10 weeks by year-end. The year had started with some medical challenges that ground our year to a halt before it even began! My husband finally stepped in and set a finish date for school regardless of where we were in the guide. During our break, we reassessed our boys’ placements. Our older sons needed to move forward to a new guide. So, after our break, they did. Our younger sons needed to keep going in their current guides. So, after our break, they did. For our younger sons, we just picked their guides back up where they had left off. Once this decision was made, I felt a huge sense of relief! We felt like we had done what was best for our boys academic journey in a difficult year.

We would love to help you too!

If you need help deciding whether your children are correctly placed for the coming year, please contact us! We would love to help!!


Do you have a routine or a schedule?

Teaching Tip:

Do you have a routine or a schedule?

I am a scheduler by nature.  Yet, the more years I have taught, first in the classroom and then at home, I discovered a routine is more important than a schedule.

How does a routine differ from a schedule?

A routine is a consistent flow to the day that easily becomes a pattern.  A schedule can feel random and pattern-less, requiring more concentration and energy to implement.  A routine becomes something you can do without thinking. A schedule often leaves you constantly referring to a written order of things.

Can a schedule become routine?

I always make a time schedule for each of my boys and myself.  For my schedule to become a routine, the most important part is the order in which things are done. I have my boys keep the same order of subjects each day.  Following the same order allows my boys to memorize their schedule until it becomes “routine.”

What are the benefits of a routine?

A routine makes it easy for me to check on my boys and see how far along they are in their day.  A routine takes less thought to implement.  It allows the child to really find ways to make the day flow more smoothly.  Following the same order also makes gathering books and supplies easy. This is because even very young students begin to know which books they’ll need when. If you are constantly changing your schedule, you may never truly reap the benefits of having a routine.

Try developing a routine!

Try keeping the same order of subjects in your day for a month!  See if you notice an easier flow to your day as your schedule becomes a routine.


PS: If you want a more in-depth look at creating a routine, have a look at this blog post:

Please Explain How to Set Up a Routine Instead of a Schedule