Make an effort to be fully present during school time.

Teaching Tip:

Make an effort to be fully present during school time.

During school time with my kiddos, I am often reminded how important it is for me to be “fully present.” If I don’t make a conscious effort to focus on my kids, I can easily be distracted. The telephone, computer, people at the door, cooking tasks, laundry, texting, errands, or a million tasks can divide my attention. When I am doing all these tasks while schooling, my boys are continually waiting on me. This means their school day (and mine) drags on longer than it should!

Try to minimize interruptions and limit outside tasks during school time.

So, I am reminded anew to try to minimize interruptions and limit my tasks to a time when I am not teaching. Depending on the ages of your students, you can do this in several ways.

For younger students, try alternating school time with breaks.

If your students are young, you can alternate a half hour of school with a half hour break. Simply continue this alternating pattern until the school subjects are done for the day. This pattern alternates chunks of school time with chunks of free time. We followed this plan for years when our boys were young, so we know it works. Just be sure to return to school after each half hour break!

For older students, try focused teaching hours.

If your students are older, and their school day is longer, you can focus your teaching time during certain hours. At our house, we typically teach from 9 A.M. – 1 P.M. With this plan, the kiddos often have school left in the afternoon, but my formal teaching is done by 1 PM. I simply schedule more independent subjects for my boys to complete after 1:00 PM.

The last few years, our older boys have done several school subjects in the evening to “get ahead.” They always do independent subjects that would typically be done after lunch the next day. Working ahead helps them finish by 1:00 PM the next day, which they prefer. Doing several subjects in the evening is another option to help your children get done earlier.

Or, try a scheduled mid-day break before returning to school.

One other scenario we tried in the past was to take a scheduled mid-day break. One year we took a scheduled break from 1:00-3:30 PM. This allowed me to deal with many things that needed my attention before it got too late in the day. We then returned to school from 3:30-5:30 PM. This was a plan that worked for a year, but I must admit it was hard to return to school at 3:30!

It is amazing what can be accomplished in a short time if you are fully present.

I am amazed what I can get done in a very short time with my boys if I am “fully present.” While this is not always possible, I encourage you to see with a new light any time stealers that really can wait. Strive to be mentally and physically present as much as possible during school time. If emergencies and situations that need to be dealt with occur, return to the pattern of being fully present as soon as possible. I am trying to focus on being fully present and am finding new joy in the time I do have with my boys!

Blessings,
Carrie

Is it normal for parental involvement to lessen in Creation to Christ?

Dear Carrie

Is it normal for my level of parental involvement to lessen in Creation to Christ?

Dear Carrie,

I have 2 children doing Creation to Christ. I’m blessed Heart of Dakota has taught them independence! They are wonderful at using the guide and finishing their work. Praise God! I answer questions, check work, and lead the teacher-directed things. But, I find it’s different this year. In the younger years, I read aloud all of the books. Now, I spend more time with my 7 yo in Bigger, my 5 yo in LHFHG, and my 3 yo. I feel like it’s impossible to be much more involved than I am! I’d love to have time to sit and read the CTC books with the olders, but I just can’t! I guess I need either encouragement or constructive criticism! Is it normal for my level of involvement to change in Creation to Christ?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help Me Know If It Is Normal for My Level of Involvement to Change in Creation to Christ”

Dear “Ms. Please Help Me Know If It Is Normal for My Level of Involvement to Change in Creation to Christ,”

This is a great question! Whenever we write an HOD guide, we strive for balance. We especially find it important for us to have a balance of “Teacher-Directed,” “Semi-Independent,” and “Independent” activities. While we may have more ‘I’s in a guide, that doesn’t necessarily mean we spend more time on “I” activities. It just means that we often keep the ‘I’ activities shorter. We do this in order for them to be truly independent (so it takes more ‘I’ activities to equal out the minutes spent on ‘T’ and ‘S’ activities).

We systematically move skills we have taught toward being independent.

As kiddos progress through our guides, we systematically move skills we have taught toward being ‘Independent.’  This allows us to teach and practice new skills in each guide. With this thought in mind, once kiddos are able to read their own history and science material, we desire for them to be doing the reading. This aids in better retention, produces stronger written and oral narrations, increases a child’s vocabulary as they see and read difficult words in print, and gives the child a chance to pace the reading as needed to suit his/her specific reading level. We do keep storytime as an area where the parent can cuddle up with the child to share great books, and we tie follow-up skills to the readings.

Older children benefit from reading on their own, and teaching time is precious, so we choose teaching tasks carefully.

As homeschool parents, we likely have limited time each day to formally “teach” our children. If we choose to utilize that precious teaching time with our older children to read aloud material that the children would benefit from reading on their own, then we draw from our well of teaching time by doing a task like reading aloud that isn’t really a teaching task. We want to be sure that any task we choose for the teacher to do is truly a teaching task.

Allowing older children to read their own material frees up time to teach important things that otherwise could be missed.

By allowing the children to read their own material, we free up time to teach important things that may otherwise be missed. We can interact with our students in studies like the Genesis study in The Radical Book for Kids, or purity studies like Beautiful Girlhood or Boyhood and Beyond, or in Biblical worldview studies through Who Is God?. Likewise, we can enjoy working  through poetry, art, and music appreciation. Additionally, we can spend time teaching writing programs, interacting with grammar lessons, hearing narrations, and dialoguing as the students show us their notebooking. We can focus on interaction with the student that goes far beyond reading aloud.

Our guides incrementally prepare students for the level of independence needed in high school and college.

The design of our guides is also intended to prepare students incrementally for the level of independence that will be needed in high school and college. We teach a high level of reading and following written directions through the ‘I’ boxes of each HOD guide. Students also need time management skills to complete the boxes independently. The students learn these skills, yet parents always have a follow-up or a product that is produced, so they can monitor students’ progress in every subject area. Students love to move toward taking on more of their own learning as they get older, and our guides tap into that God-given path toward maturity by giving the child a bit more responsibility each year.

We are seeking for meaningful interaction moments in every teaching day.

We have truly enjoyed the interactions we have with our children at each level of our HOD guides. I must admit that my 3 youngest kiddos using HOD have had many more opportunities for interaction with me than my oldest son had. This is because we had previously tried so many of the various curricula out there on his homeschool journey. At HOD, we are seeking for “meaningful interaction” moments in every teaching day. We plan for them in each of our guides. So, rest assured, you can know teaching time is there for you each and every day.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Set aside a balanced amount of time to teach to simplify your homeschooling!

A Heart of Dakota Life

#4 – Set Aside A Balanced Amount of Time to Teach

Using Heart of Dakota is already a wonderful way you can simplify and love your homeschool life! However, it is often the everyday things that can make or break our homeschooling success, especially long-term. In this “A Heart of Dakota Life” series, we’re exploring ways to simplify and love our homeschool life. We’ve learned the importance of not ‘going it alone,’ of enlisting help, and of enjoying the comfort of our home.  This brings us to our fourth way to simplify and love our homeschool life, and that is to make sure to set aside a balanced amount of time to teach.

Homeschooling won’t just happen – we have to make time for it!

Setting aside time to teach may seem like such an obvious thing to do to successfully homeschool. However, since we can homeschool anytime, it is tempting to think we don’t really need to set aside time to make it happen.  We have all day, all week, all year to homeschool, so what’s the big deal about mindfully setting aside time to teach? Well, the big deal is homeschooling won’t just happen. In fact, days go by faster than you think, weeks quicker than you can blink, and – before you know it – yet another year has passed.

Be informed about how much time you need to be able to teach!

Before you can set aside time to teach, it helps to know how much time you need to set aside. Heart of Dakota makes that easy, as Carrie writes plans in a very consistent way. Each guide has daily plans that take relatively the same amount of time each day. Likewise, each type of assignment takes about the same amount of time to do. Furthermore, Carrie has even given suggested time allotments for each box of plans on this blog and on our message board. Finally, starting with Preparing Hearts, Carrie notes whether assignments are “T” teacher-directed, “S” semi-independent, or “I” independent. Heart of Dakota is complete, so you don’t really need to add anything to it. However, if you are adding things to HOD that require teaching, of course you’ll want to plan for more time to teach. The same holds true if you are substituting things that require more teaching.

Avoid multi-tasking, media monitoring, and mega expectations!

To truly enjoy your teaching in homeschooling, it is important to be as focused as possible when you are teaching. Women are wonderful at multi-tasking! I often dry my hair with one hand while putting on my makeup with the other hand while marching in place to try to hit my steps’ goal on my Fitbit. I used to employ this strategy while teaching. I’d fold laundry while I listened to an oral narration, make lunch while touting a book in another hand and reading aloud, even brush my teeth while listening to my children say their Bible verses. I don’t recommend this. Multi-tasking is no friend to teaching well. Likewise, monitoring my media (like email, FB, voicemail) during teaching isn’t helpful. Finally, having mega expectations for my children to turn out 100% perfect work steals my joy and just adds time to my teaching.

The Flip Side – Planning too much time to teach!

I’ve met homeschool moms who are teaching all day, all week, and sometimes even all year! They often are weary, stressed, and ready to put their children in public school. Their husbands feel the same. Their children feel the same. Homeschooling is meant to be a part of our lives, not all of it.  I love coffee, and lots of it, but at 1 PM, no matter what, I’m all done drinking coffee. If all I drank was coffee, I’d actually begin to dislike it. Likewise, planning too much time to teach can make both parents and children begin to dislike homeschooling. Maintaining a balance in life is important.  There is a point in which we call it ‘good enough’ and move on to other interests in life.

Take Action

How do you feel about the amount of time you are teaching each of your children right now? Are you frazzled because you don’t have enough time to teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time? Are you attending too many activities? Consider dropping some and enjoying fewer activities more fully. Are you checking your FB every minute or two? Consider docking your phone and setting a few times to check it more mindfully. Are you getting to bed too late binge watching Netflix? Consider enjoying one episode and getting to bed earlier so you can get up to teach on time. Are you volunteering for too many things? Consider volunteering for one thing and doing it more wholeheartedly. Are you serving perfectly healthy meals all made from scratch? Consider adding in a few ready-made quick-to-the-table meals.

Or, on the flip side, are you weary because all you do is teach? If so, what can you take off your plate to make more time for things other than teaching? For example, are you doing 2 spelling programs because your child is a poor speller? Consider choosing one and doing it well. Are you having your children write their narrations twice, so they are perfect on their notebooking pages? Consider having them write them once in pencil; then hop in and help them quickly fix any errors. Are you teaching multiple classes at a co-op and finding you have no time to teach at home? Consider teaching one class only, or take a break from co-op for awhile. Are you hovering over your older children as they do their independent work? Consider walking away and checking back with them at a set time. Are you reading aloud books your children are assigned to read independently? Consider only reading aloud the books assigned to be, and take your time to truly enjoy the reading!

Mindfully planning when you will teach can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of your life! 

One of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling is to mindfully plan when we will teach. This can keep homeschooling in balance with the rest of our life. If you find you are off balance, why not take some real time to fix it? Don’t be too hard on yourself. None of us are perfect. And try not to over-correct! You’ll just throw your teaching off-balance in the other direction. Rather shoot for the middle and make what progress toward balance you can each day. Go forward in confidence, rather than wistfully looking back. Life will never be perfect, and we will never be perfect at keeping everything in balance. But, when it comes to homeschooling, taking time to truly plan for teaching – in as balanced of a way as possible – is one of the best ways to simplify and love our homeschooling life!

In Christ,
Julie