Scheduled breaks are important!

Teaching Tip: 

Scheduled breaks are important!

As we are in the midst of summer in South Dakota, I am reminded of the importance of taking a break from school. Scheduled time off is important for both parent and child. It is a time to rest, rejuvenate, ponder, and do projects.  Breaks lend themselves to a different kind of schedule.  The freedom of a break is good for the soul.  Often, if you don’t take time off, you will eventually lose steam and end up taking an unscheduled break anyway.

Should you take a break if you already missed more school than you would like?

Even if your school year was not as successful as you desired, it is still important to take a break! In 2018-2019, we had 160 days with our son Greyson away in the hospital, but our boys at home kept moving forward.  They were in need of a break that summer.  Even though my husband and I were gone a lot, we needed a break too. Taking a scheduled break is different than taking a break due to life’s circumstances.  So, if you can take a scheduled break for a few weeks or a month, I encourage you to do so!

Why is is important to take a scheduled break?

Scheduled breaks are something both you and your child can look forward to with anticipation.  The break time can be wisely spent if you know it is coming.  It can be a time to organize, read, travel, plan, catch up on needed rest, or work on character training. The break can be time for your children to rest their minds and pursue their hobbies and interests. A scheduled break can be a time of refreshment and rejuvenation.  When it is over, often both you and your child will feel more ready to return to the routine of school.

What is a good amount of time for a break?

Each family will differ in the amount of time they feel is right for their break.  I typically like to have at least one month off from school.  A couple of weeks just doesn’t feel like a true break to me! If we’ve had a good school year with few interruptions, I will take the whole summer off from school. For our son Greyson, we had a different schedule the summer of 2019.  Since he missed so much school that year, he did half-days of school four days a week during the summer.  He schooled on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. We checked his school twice a week, but my husband did the checking, so I got a break!

Plan to take a scheduled break.

If you haven’t already done so, take time to plan a scheduled break soon!  Use your break time in a way that helps you and your children rejuvenate.  Then, see if you feel more ready to begin school after your break.  We all need time to step back and refresh from life’s challenges.  Otherwise, we will just wear out! Plan for your next scheduled break today.



Summer is a great time for audio books!

Teaching Tip:

Summer is a great time for audio books!

Are your days stretching long with time to fill for your kiddos? Or, are your days filled with car trips and vacations? Are you beating the summer heat by staying indoors close to the air conditioner? No matter what your summer looks like, audio books are a great way to pass the time!

Listening to audios builds auditory skills.

Would you consider yourself to be an auditory learner? Or, are you more of a visual learner? Then again, perhaps you learn more easily by doing. Not everyone is strong in auditory learning, yet it is often an important way to learn! This means auditory skills are worth building. No matter what your child’s preferred learning style, as your kiddos listen to audio books they build auditory skills.

Do audio books only work for auditory learners?

Of course, auditory learners will enjoy audio books more. Since it is their preferred style of learning, auditory learners will listen to almost anything! However, all learners can enjoy audio books if you find the type that suits their listening style.

Try different types!

Try different types of audio books to find your child’s style. Perhaps your child would enjoy a dramatized version or one that is performed radio-style. Audios with background music, multiple voices and performers, and sound effects may have more of an appeal. Often the narrator’s voice makes a difference as to how easy it is to listen to and understand an audio book. The genre makes a difference too! Maybe your child loves mysteries, fantasies, humorous books, or nonfiction.

Set aside time to listen each day.

To enjoy the audio book, set aside 20-30 minutes each day for your child to listen. We encourage our boys to listen while they are playing quietly, or drawing, or modeling, or riding in the car, or laying in their beds. As with any book, it can take time and continuity to get “into” a book. If your child gets hooked, he/she may want to listen much longer!

Try audios this summer and see what you think!

Try a variety of audios with your child, and see if you can hook your listener. If you do, you will be building important auditory skills in an effortless way! Plus, it’s just plain fun to get lost in a good book!


Summer is a great time to encourage reading!

Teaching Tip:

Summer is a great time to encourage reading!

While it is important to take time off during the school year, summer is a great time to encourage reading. The long, lazy days of summer just beg for you to curl up with an ice cold glass of lemonade or iced tea and a book!

How can you encourage your children to read this summer?

One way to encourage your children to read this summer is by example. If you read this summer, and your children see you reading, they will be encouraged to read! One way we have done this at our house is to set aside time as a family to read.

Have a family “reading time.”

Last summer, we set aside 30 minutes in the evenings after dinner as family “reading time.” We gathered together in our living room with our individual books and read silently. We set the timer, and when it rang… we were done. At the end of reading time, sometimes a few family members shared something about what they’d read. But mostly, we just read. We enjoyed this time so much as a family that we carried it into our school year!

These days we steadily get to reading time about 4-5 nights a week. Sometimes the boys don’t want to take time out of their busy schedules to read. Yet, when we do take time to read, all of us seem to end up enjoying it. My husband and I really look forward to reading time. I finished several books this year I never would have found time to read had it not been for reading time!

What types of books will tempt your children to read this summer?

Summer seems to be a time for a different kind of reading. If you’ve ever walked through a book store in the summer, you will notice tables of books labeled “beach reads.” These are books that are easy to read on a beach or outdoors somewhere. They often are absorbing books you can take breaks from, return to, and easily be caught up in again. Books like this also work well for the family “reading time” I described above. Sometimes “beach reads” have a lighter, more carefree feel to them. Other times they have a brisk and thrilling pace. Overall, they are enjoyable, easy to read, and have simpler phrasing and diction. They are books that are just less work to read.

Series books work well for summer reading.

Summer can be a great time for series books. Series books often have the “beach read” feel. They have simpler phrasing and diction, have similar plots, follow a definite pattern, and require much less work to read because you already know the characters. Plus, if your child gets invested in a series, he/she can just keep on reading from one book to the next. Of course, not all series books are good. Many are not. So, you’ll have to use discernment to discover the series books that are acceptable for your family.

Take time to cultivate the habit of summer reading.

Time spent cultivating the habit of summer reading is time well spent. We’ve discovered our children curled up reading on the couch, reading in their beds, reading in the bath, and reading late at night. They started a book during “reading time” and just had to know what happened next! Try a family reading time and see what you think. Who knows, you may find yourself burning the midnight oil to find out what happens next in your book too!


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.



Does everyone homeschool year-round?

Dear Carrie

My question is, does everyone homeschool year-round?

I was homeschooled growing up, but now it’s my turn to homeschool my kids! I’m set on using Heart of Dakota, but what I’m not sure about is WHEN to homeschool. A lot of things are different than when my mom taught me. I have always planned to start in the fall like around Sept. and then go until May or June. Then, I thought I’d have my summers off to relax and have fun. I don’t know! I’m just a bit surprised that I have seen so many homeschool families schooling year-round and going through the summer.

Personally, I think my kids would need a break, so that they are fired up to start again in the fall. Plus, I NEED a break too. So, my question is, does everyone homeschool year-round? Or, do some homeschool families take the summers off? If I may ask, what do you do personally, and why?


“Confused About Year-Round Or Summers Off Homeschooling”

Dear “Confused About Year-Round Or Summers Off Homeschooling,”

There are many ways a homeschool “schedule” can run! This is such a blessing! Many families do love to homeschool year-round. We did try a year-round schedule when my youngest was in kindergarten and first grade, but it wasn’t for us. So, we now follow a somewhat more traditional school-year!  We do take our summers off.  I’ll try to explain why – here goes…

One, we really value our summer weather!

Here in South Dakota, our summer weather is fleeting! So, we “live” outside for June, July, and August. We do still save our family vacation for September or October and just take a week off then.

Two, Mike and I both function best on a schedule.

I am a person who functions best on a schedule, and so does Mike.  Once we get in a flow (with my boys especially), taking a week or two off every month really causes us to lose the flow of our schedule. Also, when I did school year round, my little guy was always asking whether we needed to do school today or not. He was confused when we were on and when we were off. Mike and I both like being on the same page, and we like our kids to be on that same page too!

Three, my sons love summer projects!

My boys love their summer projects. Their unstructured days let them really get into book-writing, building things, recording tapes or making long video productions, trying experiments, and so on. They come up with their best ideas with long days of freedom. Often during the year, I’ll point out things that will be good summer projects. Many of them keep a list of these ideas, and when summer arrives… they’re set!

Four, convention season is a busy time for our family!

I am often going to conventions in May and June, so it helps to be done with school earlier.

Five, summer is a wonderful time for me to write!

I love to have the summer to really focus on projects (just like my sons, I guess). I am usually pushing hard to finish writing projects, so the time off from teaching coincides great with that for me!

Six, I’m an organizer and a planner at heart!

I am an organizer and a planner by nature, and having a more traditional school year makes it easier for me to tell where my kids should be academics-wise.

Though we take our summers off, we don’t really follow the public school calendar.

We do not follow the public school calendar, so we have school every day Monday through Friday. We do take off a week at Christmas, an extra day at Easter/Thanksgiving, and several days off when family visits from far away. Otherwise, every week day is a school-day here. My kiddos never ask whether we’re having school today. (Otherwise, I’d find it too easy to say, “No, we’re having a day off!”)

This kind of homeschooling just works for our family! Partially because of where we live, partially because of the lifestyle we lead, and partially because of the way we like our year to go! There is no one right way to choose the days you homeschool, but there is probably one way that is more right for you! You may have to try it a couple of different ways to find what really fits your family. Give your best idea a try, and if it isn’t a fit, adjust it for the next homeschool year. You’ll soon discover what fits your own family best.



P.S.  Check out this post on our board about families who enjoy year-round schooling and families who enjoy summers off – click here!  For further discussion, click here!  And for even more discussion, click here!  And, here!  This is a well-discussed topic by the wise ladies on our board!

P.S.S.  Looking for ideas for daily schedules/routines for homeschooling?  Check out our “Let’s Share Our Schedules” thread which has over 10,000 views by clicking here!

P.S.S.S.  For the benefits of taking time off from teaching, click here!