After twenty-five years of homeschooling, and seeing English offerings at hundreds of homeschooling conferences, I can tell you – absolutely – that I have never seen anything more thorough, more carefully planned, or more Catholic in content than Seton’s English courses.
While you may be assured of Seton’s excellence in English, anything worthwhile is hard work, and this subject proves that rule. Let’s face it! English is really two subjects: grammar and composition. Grammar requires a mature thought process, an analytical thought process, while composition is complex to teach and to learn.
While Seton’s English courses are challenging, it has proven to be within the reach of the vast majority of students, and is well worth the effort.
A few simple tips, based on my own experience, might help English studies proceed more smoothly in your homeschool.
1. Using the Worktexts to Teach Grammar
The Seton worktexts are carefully laid out, and have been improved over the years to make them more thorough in the explanations, and easier to use with color-coded examples. Generally the grammar rule or definition is printed in a box at the top of the page.
At least in the early grades, Mom needs to review the concept and the directions, and to make sure that the student understands what is expected. Practice exercises are divided into groups. Have the student complete the first several problems and then check his work. This allows you to make sure your student “gets it” or to provide further instruction.
If everything seems to be going well, your child can complete the rest of Exercise A independently.
Additional exercises, Part B, can be handled several ways. First, if the child struggled with Part A, then by all means review the concept again and have him complete the rest of the page. You might assign the B Exercise for evening work for a couple of reasons.
First, it allows you to keep your English class to a shorter length during the school day. Second, there is some evidence that children learn better when they see the work again, when the concepts are repeated, within hours of them first being introduced.
You might save all or part of the Part B exercises for review. For example, you can assign one or two examples from several pages everyday at the beginning of English class to make sure the student does not forget what has already been practiced.
Finally, even if your student breezed through Exercise A, you still might assign Exercise B to reinforce the concept in the child’s mind. The teaching sisters of the so-called Golden Age of Catholic schools did not hesitate to assign work, even if they felt most of the students had already grasped it. It seems counterintuitive to homeschoolers, but completing assignments in their entirety builds better understanding, speed, accuracy, neatness, and diligence.
2. Help is on the Way
This particular procedure may seem a bit complicated, especially if Mom is trying to juggle several students at once, so the Seton grammar worktexts, English for Young Catholics 1 – 4 are adding some really nifty parent/student aids which should really simplify teaching English.
The size of the print font will vary: small print means “parent reads to child”; large font indicates “student reads.”
Colorful interesting icons indicate when something should be memorized, like: A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. Another icon will imply that the student will need some help from the teaching parent. Another indicates that the student should write the answers in that section.
3. A Strong Start in Composition
With the exception of 8th grade, most, although not all, of the composition instruction is found in the lesson plans. Composition is multi-disciplinary in that it requires children to think about what they want to say, organize their thoughts into a logical outline, and then put their ideas on paper using proper spelling, penmanship, sentence structure, and punctuation.
Do not be discouraged if skills build slowly. If you follow the instructions and assign the work in the daily lesson plans, your child will make steady progress. Children master composition the same way a performer makes it to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice!
My handiest tool to teach language skills at the earliest level was the Morning Workbook. I would purchase the bound, marble-covered, blank notebooks with the lines for beginning writers, usually red baselines, and dotted center guides.
(Hint: It is much easier to find these books in school supply season. Purchase several to see you through the entire year.)
In kindergarten, we might practice writing the student’s first name, and then later, family name as well. The student learns to write J.M.J. on the top line to dedicate work to the Holy Family of Nazareth. If a student in the younger grade cannot yet copy his or her name, write it in yellow highlighter to trace.
After that is conquered, have the student write, “My name is Joseph Jones,” with capital letters for the first word and names, and a period at the end of the sentence. Start adding, “Today is Tuesday,” again with appropriate capitalization and punctuation.
Then change it to “Today is Tuesday, May 14, 2013.” Practice writing the date using the full spelling of the month, the abbreviation, and just using numbers. I would use the bottom of the page for work the student needed for extra practice, perhaps a few lines of a number or letter the child reverses frequently.
In 2nd and 3rd grades, have children write their address and phone numbers. They will learn how to spell their siblings’ names by practice writing them, but always writing full sentences, such as “My sisters’ names are Betty and Belinda.”
Buy an outdoor thermometer and let the children record the daily weather. “Today is Tuesday, May 14, 2013. It is a sunny day. At 10 A.M., the temperature was 60 degrees Fahrenheit, with a gentle breeze from the west.”
From K until 3rd grade, this daily Morning Workbook assignment should take no more than 15 or 20 minutes of class time.
4. Building Skills
By the 4th, 5th and 6th grades, your students will have gained a strong composition skillset with the help of these short daily assignments; now you want to add to them. Have the children keep simple daily journals, recording the weather, their plans each day or week, or the books they are reading.
Often girls decorate their journals with colorful covers using fancy gel pens. Boys will be more cooperative if presented with day-planner type books, or lesson planners. What is most important is that ideas are written down using full sentences and proper rules of grammar.
At this age, students might continue to record the daily weather, perhaps giving the temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. They might record the books they are reading, “Last night, I began to read The Winged Watchman by Hilda Van Stockum. It is the story of a family living in Holland during the Nazi Occupation.”
They can keep track of the family’s shopping list. “We need to buy eggs, butter, and milk.” If there is a calendar in the journal, allow them to keep track of family appointments. Just keep them writing!
At the end of 6th grade, most students are completing longer written assignments in subjects such as reading, history, and religion, and the daily journals have served their purpose.
It’s Worth the Effort
Some of my children worked quite diligently to complete Seton’s English assignments, especially in the upper grades, and not always without complaint, but their efforts brought a big payoff. Ask any college professor, or a former Seton student now attending college.
Many students entering college are woefully unprepared for the demanding writing assignments. Seton students are ready; in fact, some students report breezing through their college work.
All the hard work is worth it, as many Seton graduates report not only obtaining high grades but also being paid to help other students in the college English workshop!
Header Image CC Walt Stoneburner