Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

From Our House to Yours

Keeping Balance in Homeschooling

We all recognize keeping balance in life is just a good way to try to be healthy. Things taken to the extreme are apt to become unhealthy over time. Just because you love chocolate, that doesn’t mean you can eat it throughout the entire day. Or, just because you love that show on Netflix, that doesn’t mean you can watch it most the day. Or, just because you love to drink coffee – ooh, this one is tough for me – that doesn’t mean you can drink it all day. (Noon. That has to be my cutoff, or I won’t sleep a wink!) Well, homeschooling is the same way. When something is out of balance and taken to the extreme, it can become unhealthy – even if it was initially a good thing!  Keeping balance in homeschooling keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’ Let’s see how!

Balance in Subjects

I once received a phone call from a mom who was using Saxon math with her four children. She said she needed help picking a new math program. When I asked what she didn’t like about Saxon, she told me she loved it! Really loved it! In fact, she was having a hard time giving it up. However, she said she was teaching 4 different Saxon math levels. Each lesson was taking her over an hour, and that was with skipping some things and only doing the odds and evens. She said she’d told her husband that if she didn’t make a change, her children were only going to remember her as the math teacher. All she did was teach math! There was no time for anything else. Maintaining balance in subjects, for both mom and children, is important. Keeping balance in subjects keeps your homeschooling ‘healthy!’

Balance in Time

I once talked with a mom whose daughter loved drawing. Any history project, science lab form, poetry assignment, timeline entry, geography map, or independent history activity that involved drawing was d-r-a-w-n out. In fact, her daughter drew out these assignments so much that she didn’t have time for grammar, math, and dictation. Furthermore, her homeschool day was incredibly d-r-a-w-n out too. She often schooled from morning to evening, yet still was unable to complete all her school subjects. Though both daughter and mother loved the beautiful drawings, both were weary and irritable at the end of most days. At the end of our conversation, they’d made a plan they were both excited to try! They simply scheduled an extra 45 minutes of ‘creative drawing time’ in the school day. During this time, daughter could d-r-a-w out any part of her HOD day’s work that inspired her. Balance in time was restored, and everyone was happier!

Balance in the Day

A few years ago I spoke with a homeschool mom in tears who told me she’d made a mess of things. When I asked what had happened, she said she’d let her daughter just pick whatever she felt like doing in the guide. At first it was great! Her daughter loved history, so she forged ahead in the Reading About History and Storytime. She also loved the Nature Journal. Even though this was planned 2 days a week, she’d done it every day. She loved the Hymn Study part of the Bible Quiet Time and had memorized almost half of them already. The President Study was another favorite. History projects were fun at the start, but harder to finish. Science experiments were hit and miss. Math and dictation were not favorites. The mom had sticky note bookmarks all over her Heart of Dakota guide. It was a mess!

Fixing the Mess 

Well, blessedly her daughter was only about 8 weeks into her homeschool year. Together we made a plan for her daughter each day to do two days’ worth of lessons of her most behind subjects, one day’s worth of her lesser behind subjects, and none of her far ahead subjects. She would do school for the same amount of hours they’d planned until all the sticky notes caught up to the farthest ahead one (which was Reading About History and Storytime). I told her to call me when all her sticky notes ‘met!’ She called me in about a month. Both daughter and mother were ecstatic! They were thrilled to be doing a day of plans within a day. Balance turned out to be more fun than they thought it would be!

I recently talked with this same mom. She asked me if I remembered helping her out of her ‘sticky note mess.’ I did, and I asked her how things were going. She laughed and said, “Well, we only need ONE sticky note for our daily plans now. And trust me, we will never go back to that mess again!”

So, every once and awhile, do a mental check! Is there balance in your homeschooling? In your subjects, your time, your day? If not, try restoring balance, and see if your homeschooling feels ‘healthier!’ Finding balance is worth it.

In Christ,

Julie

Spend 1-2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven

From Our House to Yours

Spend 1 Year in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH) is Heart of Dakota’s preschool guide written for children ages 2-5. I have used this guide with all three of my sons at different ages and paces. My oldest son, Wyatt, used LHTH when he was 4 years old back in 2003. This was the first year LHTH was published! He used it 5 days a week, finished it in 1 year, and then he moved into Little Hearts for His Glory.

Spend 1 1/2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

My middle son, Riley, used Heart of Dakota’s LHTH when he was 3 1/2 years old. He used it 3-4 days a week. This worked perfectly, as it gave me extra time to focus on my oldest son’s school and my newborn baby! Riley finished LHTH in about a year and a half, and then he moved into Little Hearts for His Glory.

Spend 2 Years in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

My youngest son, Emmett, used LHTH when he was 2 1/2 years old. He saw me homeschooling his older brothers and just couldn’t wait to start! I decided to go half-speed using both Bibles. I read from the easier Bible first, did the Fingerplay, the letter activity, and the Bible activity the first day. Then the second day, I read from the harder Bible, repeated the Fingerplay, reviewed the letter flashcard, and then did the remaining boxes (music and the rotating box). This really filled a need I had back then! I had mommy time with my little guy, but it didn’t add much time to my already busy day. Using both Bibles kept it fresh each day, and doing the Fingerplay and the letter flashcards both days helped him really remember his letters and sounds. I think he was an early reader because of this!

One other way to spend 2 years in LHTH is to use the 2/3 LHTH Package the first year. Then, the second year, use the 4/5 LHTH Package. With this plan, you go through the guide twice, but you use different Bibles and different devotionals each time.

Combining a 2 1/2 and a 5 Year-Old in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

One other way to spend your time in LHTH is to (for example) combine a 2 1/2 and 5 year-old in it. In this combining scenario, the 5 year-old must get the most out of it. So, I’d choose the 4/5 LHTH Package with the 5 year-old in mind, and whatever the 2 1/2 year-old got out of it would be a bonus!  Then, the following year, the then 6 year-old would move into Little Hearts, while the then 3 1/2 year-old would use LHTH with the 2/3 Package, spreading it out over 1  1/2 years. This works well if you have a 5 year-old that still needs to learn letters and sounds.

Combining a 3 1/2 and a 5 1/2 Year-Old in Little Hands to Heaven (LHTH)

Another way to spend your time in LHTH is to combine a 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 year-old. Either the 3/4 or the 4/5 LHTH Package could be used, based on which devotional you prefer. You’d spend about 1 1/2 years in LHTH, doing it 3-4 days each week. For the 5 1/2 year -old, you’d add any kindergarten language arts/math from Little Hearts, based on whatever you feel the 5 1/2 year-old needs. Kindergarten fine motor skills (Do It Carefully and Finding the Answers), handwriting (A Reason for Handwriting K or Italic A), phonics (The Reading Lesson or Reading Made Easy), and math (Essentials A and B) could all be added to beef up LHTH for a 5 1/2 year-old.

After 1 1/2 years in LHTH together, the children would be 5 and 7 1/2 years old when starting Little Hearts for His Glory. The 5 year-old would use the K options, and the 7 1/2 year-old would use the 1st grade options. Perfect!

Hope you enjoy these different ways you can spend your time with your little ones in LHTH!

In Christ,

Julie

Finding Balance in Life with a Pie Chart

From Our House to Yours

Finding Balance in Life with a Pie Chart

Emmett and I have been working on pie charts in HOD‘s Singapore Math 6B. Half a pie is 50%, a quarter is 25%, one-tenth is 10%, and so on. I began to think about what my life would look like in a pie chart of time. What if I made a pie chart with how I usually spend 24 hours each day? How much of the pie chart would be devoted to homeschooling? Time with God? Health? Entertainment? Errands? Cooking? Cleaning? Sleeping? Work? Media usage? Appointments? Time with my husband? Or, what if I made a pie chart of a month? Of a year? What if each of my sons made a pie chart of their time? A pie chart is an interesting way to think about how we spend our time, isn’t it? I would think our pie charts would reveal whether our life is in balance or not.

Balance in life is important, but it will naturally vary based on our stage of life.

We all know it is good to strive for balance in life. Isn’t it odd how we can easily look at others’ usage of time and see where we think their pie charts are off? She’s on FB way too much! He’s a workaholic. She’s always at the gym! All she does is homeschool! He’s way too into sports. She never spends time with her husband. He should make more time for God. All they do is run from one activity to the next! She’s always shopping. He’s always eating out. These are snap judgments that may or may not be right, especially considering we might be in a different stage of life than the person we are judging. However, I will say, one thing is certain; it is easier to see where other people’s balance is off than to see where our own balance is off.

Each person’s pie chart will vary based on their stage of life and God-given purposes.

God made each of us His own unique creation, with different gifts and purposes. Because of this, our pie charts will be balanced in their own unique ways. Rather than spending time judging other people’s use of time, our time would be better spent considering how we spend our days. The comparing game is never a good one. Either we fall short or come out ahead, and neither leaves us with a good feeling. Instead of looking at others, we should take a look at ourselves. Not in a negative way, but more in a reflective way. Is there something I’m giving way too much time to that I shouldn’t? Or, is there something I’m not giving any time to that I should? What’s out of balance in my life in an unhealthy way, and how can I try to fix it?

To have a healthy life, some things should be on everyone’s pie chart!

No matter what stage of life we are in or what our purpose or goals in life are, certain things really do need to make it on everyone’s pie chart. For example, time with God, somehow, really needs to be represented. Maintaining relationships (with our parents, children, husband, etc.) should show up too. What it takes to stay healthy (food, water, exercise, sleep, etc.) really should make an appearance! Time to homeschool must be present (if we are homeschooling). House upkeep, errands, appointments – alas, must put in an appearance too. This week, I’m taking a good long look at the balance in my pie chart! I’m going to start just be being very mindful of how exactly I’m spending my time. But then, I’m going to look for what is clearly out of balance and make some changes! Want to join me?!? Let’s get balanced together!

In Christ,

Julie

 

Add Margin to Your Day to Receive New Mercy

A Heart of Dakota Life

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy 

Lamentations 3:22-24: It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.

Does your homeschool day have margin? If something doesn’t go just right, does your routine or schedule allow for that? Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in having a plan for my homeschooling. Especially once I began homeschooling more than one child, a plan was simply a necessity.  However, my earlier homeschool schedules lacked margin. I found out the hard way, a schedule lacking margin lacks mercy. And if there is one thing we all need, it is mercy!

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy When Something Unexpected Happens

Have you ever spilled an entire cup of coffee all over your Heart of Dakota guide? Or have you ever had a contractor stop by with about a million questions about how you want to renovate your bathroom? Has your husband ever called for a model number he needs off your broken dishwasher? Have you ever had a child throw up in the middle of your homeschool day? Life is full of unexpected surprises – every day. In fact, it is the rarer thing to have a day with no surprises at all. By adding margin to your homeschool routine or schedule, you are planning for the unexpected. So when the unexpected happens, you are ready!  You have the margin to receive mercy in the event of an unexpected surprise.

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy When Correcting School Work

Do you have time planned to correct your children’s school work? When you look at Carrie’s suggested time allotments for each box of plans, do you add time to correct work? Even “I” independent boxes of plans require our attention as homeschool moms. By adding margin for correcting school work by making it a part of your overall plan for your day, you avoid having a pile up of correcting. So when your children finish their work, you are ready! You have the margin to receive mercy in the task of correcting your children’s work.

Add Margin to Receive New Mercy When You Have Appointments, Activities, or Errands

Do you have margin planned in your week for doctor appointments? How about margin for activities you plan to attend? Or how about margin for something you didn’t plan to attend but now want to? By adding margin for appointments, errands, and activities, you avoid getting behind in your schooling. So when your child has a cavity to be filled, your sister calls you for a play date with her kids, or you have to get groceries because there is nothing for dinner, you are ready!  You have the margin to receive mercy in the time it takes for appointments, errands, and activities.

So how do you plan for margin, so you can receive new mercy each day?

To plan margin when something unexpected happens, I add some cushion of time. So, for example, I might have my ‘teacher-directed’ block of time include ‘semi-independent’ work too. That way, I have extra time to walk away and deal with the unexpected. To plan margin when correcting school work, I add extra time throughout the day. By starting my teaching time by quickly correcting what’s already been completed, I plan margin for correcting. To plan margin for appointments, I set aside one afternoon each week. So, every Wed. afternoon, I know that is the day I will make appointments. Likewise, I plan for Saturdays to be my errand day. Every other Tuesday, I plan to have our children get together with my sister’s children. Finally, I plan for at least 2-3 weeks off each year for anything unplanned! Try planning for margin to receive new mercies this school year!  I think you may like it!

In Christ,
Julie

To use time is a duty

A Charlotte Mason Moment: 

“It is a bad thing to think that time is our own to do what we like with. We are all employed; we all have duties, and a certain share of our time must be given to those duties. It is astonishing how much time there is in a day, and how many things we can get in if we have a mind. It is also astonishing how a day, a week, or a year may slip through our fingers, and nothing done. We say we have done no harm, that we have not meant to do wrong. We have simply let ourselves drift. Boys or girls will drift through life at school, men or women through life in the world, effecting nothing, because they have not taken hold. They fail in examinations, in their professions, in the duty of providing for a family, in the duty of serving their town or their country, not because they are without brains, nor because they are vicious, but because they do not see that to use time is a duty.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M. Mason Vol. 4, Book 1, p. 173)