“Reading lessons must be short; ten minutes or a quarter of an hour of fixed attention is enough…”

A Charlotte Mason Moment: 

“The power of reading with perfect attention will not be gained by the child who is allowed to moon over his lessons. For this reason, reading lessons must be short; ten minutes or a quarter of an hour of fixed attention is enough for children of the ages we have in view, and a lesson of this length will enable a child to cover two or three pages of his book. The same rule as to the length of a lesson applies to children whose lessons are read to them because they are not yet able to read for themselves.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 1, p. 230)


The Habit of Attention

The habit of work…[is] ‘the making’ of man and woman

A Charlotte Mason Moment

“The habit of work, the power of work, rapidity in work, the set of the will to a given task, are ‘the making’ of man and woman; that the boy who has done the definite work necessary to pass a given examination is, other things being equal, worth twenty per cent more than he who has not been able to pull his forces together.” (Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 5, p. 180).

Summer is good time to work on keyboarding

Teaching Tip

Summer is good time to work on keyboarding skills.

Summer is a wonderful time to work on skills that will help your child during the school year. One skill that we’ve worked on with our older kiddos during the summer is keyboarding.

How much time is needed to see progress?

It is amazing how much progress can be made with just 10-15 min. of steady practice each day. We set a timer and have our older boys practice typing Monday-Friday during the summer months.

What can you use to teach keyboarding?

We happen to use and enjoy Typing Instructor, but you can use any program that works well for your family. Just be sure that your kiddos are placing their fingers in the correct positions on the keyboard.

What are the benefits?

Strong keyboarding skills are a huge help during the school year as students type their essays and writing projects! Teach it this summer and reap the rewards when school rolls around again.


Does everyone homeschool year-round?

Parent and Student Roles in Homeschooling Work with Heart of Dakota

From Our House to Yours

What are the roles of the parent and the student in homeschooling with Heart of Dakota?

Roles of the parent and student vary based on the student’s age, the assignment, and the guide.  Little Hands to Heaven through Bigger Hearts for His Glory have younger target age ranges of 2-9 years old.  In these guides, much of the work is teacher-directed or semi-independent.  Starting with Preparing Hearts for His Glory through U.S. History II, assignments are designated as “T,” “S,” or “I.” This helps facilitate the progression of skills, so students successfully take on independent work.  Gradually, from year to year, from guide to guide, students are preparing first for middle school work.  Then, they are preparing for high school level work.  Finally, they are preparing for college level work, should they so desire to go.

As they grow and mature, their role changes, and so does ours as their teacher.  Charlotte Mason was an advocate of having students take on independence as soon as they were able.  Heart of Dakota helps make this transition easier by planning for it in each guide.  So, my focus of this From Our House to Yours is to show how HOD’s guides are designed to help parents and students with changing roles.

Why are the letters “T,” “S,”, and “I” part of the boxes in Heart of Dakota’s plans?

Parents and children can easily see what needs to be done each day in Heart of Dakota’s guides. Two-page plans with boxes for each part of the plans make it clear what needs to be accomplished daily. As students mature, HOD guides switch to a 4-day a week format. Boxes of plans begin to note whether assignments are intended to be “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, or “I” independent. This helps kiddos learn to take on independence gradually and successfully. Skills that were teacher-directed in one guide, move to be semi-independent in the next guide. Likewise, skills that were semi-independent in one guide, move to be more independent in the next guide.

How do the plans being designated as “T,” “S,” or “I” work help both parents and students?

The plans in HOD’s guides make it clear what each person’s role is in each assignment. So, the teacher is doing the reading and the leading for the “T” boxes. The student is doing the reading and the following of directions for the “I” boxes. Finally, the teacher and student share the tasks in the “S” boxes. I’ve found the “T” boxes to be such a help to me for my son who wants to do everything independently. For him, it is a good thing we have planned teacher-directed tasks, or he would do it all without me! In contrast, I’ve found the “I” boxes to be a help to me for my son who wants to do everything with me. For him it is a good thing we have planned independent work, or he wouldn’t do anything without me!

So, what is an example of parent and student roles in Creation to Christ?

In Creation to Christ, the parent still does the reading for the Storytime part of the plans. I chose the History Interest Set, and it has been amazing!  So far, my favorite book has been Traveling the Way.  This little gem of a book was probably one I would have passed on, if I’d only glanced at the cover.  It just goes to show, you truly cannot judge a book by its cover!  Anyway, we thoroughly enjoy this time together! My role is to read aloud the history interest book, and Emmett’s role is to listen carefully to the reading.  After the reading, students move through the following rotation of follow-up skills in the plans…

  • give a detailed oral narration
  • rotate through the following 4 narration activities: an outline sketch, a short skit, a question and answer session, and an advertisement speech for the book
  • give a summary narration
  • make connections between the story and Proverbs
What is an example of parent and student roles in World Geography?

In World Geography, we both read Bob Schultz’s Practical Happiness on our own.  We annotate separately, using different colored pens/pencils.  Then, we meet to discuss the reading and our annotations.  I love this time together!  We have discussed so many timely subjects for a young teenage boy.  My role as a parent is no longer to simply read aloud, but to help my son grow and develop into a strong Christian man.  Pretty important roles for both of us!  We enjoy sharing our opinions about the devotion, and we have drawn so close to one another because of it.  It is easy to talk about our faith in the Lord because of this time together.  I’m so glad for these roles this year for both of us!

Finally, what is an example of parent and student roles in U.S. History II?

In U.S. History II, Wyatt watches Dave Ramsey’s DVD on personal finance, answering questions as he watches.  We meet together to discuss his answers and journal questions.  My role is to share our family’s approach to spending, to saving, and to budgeting.  I’ve shown him our monthly budget, as well as our checking and savings account.  We’ve talked about how we set aside money each month for special things.  We put homeschooling, new furniture, vacations, clothing, Christmas, birthdays, etc., in the category of being ‘special.’  Together we budget money for these special things ahead of time. Often times, we must work extra hours to save money for them as well.  My role is to help my son develop his own budget, linking his earnings to his spending and saving.  What an important role for each of us!

Changing roles for parent and student keep homeschooling fresh and exciting!

In conclusion, our roles as parents and students are ever changing as students mature.  This is a necessary part of helping our children grow into responsible adults.  The ‘T,’ ‘S,’ and ‘I’ part of the daily plans help both parents and students be successful with changing roles.  This is one thing I have truly loved about using Heart of Dakota!  From PreK through 12th grade, my role as a parent always bring fresh, new and exciting things to my day!

Likewise, my children look forward to the changes in their role as  students from year to year.  They value the independence they are able to take on, the say-so they are able to have, and the opinions they are able to express.  They also value the time with me, as we are meeting for important reasons.  Most of all, we both value the progress made – the encouragement and celebration that comes from children becoming successful young adults.  What a privilege to be a part of!

Riley’s 15 Year Old Birthday Breakfast  Celebrating Another Year of Growth

In Christ,


P.S. To read more about encouraging your students to do the independent part of the plans on their own, click here!

Celebrate Students’ Progress by Comparing Work from Start to Finish

From Our House to Yours

Heart of Dakota’s guides include front-loaded plans for the intentional building of skills from start to finish!

Students soon discover that Heart of Dakota’s guides are front-loaded with skills. All year long, students strive to show progress in these skills from unit to unit.  Students find some of the skills to be totally new, and these are the most challenging.  They find other skills were introduced previously in an earlier guide but have another level of difficulty added.  Finally, students recognize other skills were previously introduced and are being maintained with continued practice.  One of my favorite things to do is to celebrate progress by comparing our children’s work from start to finish!

Celebrating Progress in Creation to Christ’s Prophecy Chart from Start to Finish 

The Skills Taught

Creation to Christ‘s prophecy chart assignment includes many skills. First, students find and read Old Testament verses.  Then, students find and read New Testament verses.  Finally, students compare them to show how God has had a plan for “His-story” since the beginning of time.  

From Start to Finish

When this skill was first introduced, Emmett wrote a few phrases that stood out to him.  Gradually, Emmett progressed in this skill and found the most important words to show the fulfillment of the prophecy.  Finally, he wrote lengthier more inspirational portions of the Scripture, and this is where it gets exciting!  This is when he truly made the connection how amazing it is that God plans THAT FAR in advance!  He made an incredible connection here! I cannot imagine studying the ancients and missing that connection.  Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies, and because of Him our future is bright!  

Celebrating Progress in Creation to Christ Notebooking Pages from Start to Finish

The Skills Taught

Students follow directions to organize their work in full-color notebooking pages for the first time in CTC .  With guide in hand, they need to carefully read step-by-step directions to complete each unit in their notebook.  Teacher and student share the CTC guide at this point, as it’s used as teacher’s guide and a student planner.  Students must locate box numbers within the pages and follow directions to complete each assignment.  They must note whether the plans say to write in cursive or print, as both skills are practiced in CTC.  Finally, each box of plans is linked to a different connection to the history theme.

From Start to Finish

When Emmett first began writing in his notebook, he had trouble carefully following directions.  He sometimes wrote in the wrong boxes, wrote outside the boxes, forgot steps, wrote in cursive instead of print, etc.  Now, he has learned to read directions carefully, to follow them in order, and to check his spelling.  What progress!

Celebrating Progress in Creation to Christ’s History Projects from Start to Finish

The Skills Taught

Three days of each unit are devoted to completing a history project in connection with the  history theme.  Students follow step-by-step directions for the history project that are given directly in the guide.  About 20 minutes each of the 3 days is devoted to the completion of one history project.  The skills needed to complete a project from start to finish take time to develop.  Students quickly learn that a missed step equals lost time and a project that may not turn out.  These skills are invaluable.  Many future high school and college courses include the completion of projects as a large portion of the final grade.  Portfolio-based assessments are a part of many syllabi.

From Start to Finish

Emmet completed the project he is holding 100% on his own, as I was sick with the flu.  It has many steps, and he followed them all.  His coloring isn’t perfect, but he did master the skill of following steps to complete a project over multiple days.  He was so proud of his history project!  There is much satisfaction in independently completing a project well from start to finish.  It is something to be celebrated!

Take Time to Celebrate 

I hope this encourages you to take a moment to reflect on the progress you’ve seen in Heart of Dakota!  Try comparing assessments at the start of your student’s portfolio to assessments near the end of your student’s portfolio.  I bet it will give you both cause to celebrate!  We need to do this from time to time because progress on this homeschool journey deserves attention.  We needn’t wait for the end of the journey to celebrate! Steps along the way are worthy of celebration too, so why wait?

In Christ,