SummaryThe results from a Seton survey prompt valuable insights into how much time to schedule for homeschooling, and Seton staff offer guidance for flexibility.
Seton’s mission is to provide materials to parents to teach their children what is necessary for Catholic children to be successful in this world and in the next world.
Seton wants to help Catholic children to be leaders in their families and communities, as well as to reach their eternal reward.
Traditional schools may have the same goal, but classroom education poses a variety of problems. In a classroom situation, the children must learn the same material at the same time in the same manner.
Some children cannot learn at the same pace or in the same manner as the majority in the classroom. Sometimes teachers, who have different students each year, are not aware of the best way for the majority in their classroom to learn.
After their classroom schooling, young adults often struggle with learning on their own because it is so different from their 12 or 16 or 20 previous years of classroom schooling.
Former Seton students often write us letters thanking us for helping them to learn independently, to learn to be their own teachers, to learn to take responsibility for their education.
Some former students write from college in their first year, telling us they help other students. Sometimes they write us in their last year of college, telling us that they were successful and made the Dean’s List because of their independent study skills. Sometimes they write us such letters in graduate school; sometimes they write us when they start their first job.
1. Seton Survey Result: Respond to Progress
We encourage parents to adjust the learning method and the time schedule to suit the needs of each child. Parents can work with the older students to work out a realistic and successful method and study schedule. Students can progress at their own rate or at the rate suggested in the lesson plans.
We homeschooling parents recognize differences among our children, including the way they learn, the best time of day for them to learn certain subjects, or the way they respond to certain educational activities.
Seton gives parents and students the freedom to adjust the day-to-day schedule and adjust the learning techniques to meet the learning style, abilities, and needs of each student.
Last year, Seton surveyed our families to find out how the amount of time spent on schoolwork relates to success in homeschooling. We found that generally more time spent homeschooling means more success.
However, there is a point at which the value of more time begins to go down. If this were charted on graph paper, the value of more time would go up steadily at first, but then begin to level off.
The important thing for parents is to find out what amount of time spent on schooling returns the most value. That is something which is different for every family, and indeed for every child.
One child may be able to work on school for three hours a day, and another for five hours a day. The child who can do school for only three hours a day will not benefit much from working another two hours. Pushing a child beyond his or her capabilities will bring only frustration to both parent and child.
Seton’s oft-repeated motto is: Adjust the program to fit the child, not the child to the program.
Put another way, the lesson plans are your servant, not your master. They are meant to give you some structure, but you should not feel that your children must do every assignment every day.
2. Flexibility and Regularity
As we parents sometimes struggle with arranging the day-to-day schedule, we must keep in mind that our first priority is the eternal salvation of our children. We also want to teach our children the skills they need to go out in the world and change laws or attitudes to reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Flexibility in the schedule and method is important, but we should not be so flexible that we skip teaching religion.
When teaching religion, the lesson plans offer day-to-day assignments, but these can be oral or written, depending on the student’s ability to retain the information. The younger children have a text-workbook as well, which helps younger students to remember what they learn by writing out specific answers.
After religion, the next most important subjects are phonics and reading, because these courses determine how successful students will be in later studies. These courses for beginning readers are so essential for all future learning that parents need to take whatever time is necessary to make sure their children learn phonics rules and the application of phonics rules.
Reading to young children can inspire them to want to learn to read for themselves.
Whenever you teach a lesson in phonics, be sure to follow it up with a reading lesson, moving your finger along the lines as you or your child reads. Continually point out the word examples in the sentences which relate to the latest phonics rules, until the phonics concepts become automatic in your child’s reading.
After religion and reading, the next most important subject is math. It is important that your children do their math regularly, so that the concepts are retained. However, you can cut down the time you spend on math by not having your student work as many problems.
For example, if a workbook page has 20 problems, you can have your child work out all the even-numbered problems. If your child works all those problems correctly, there may be no need to work the other problems.
The subjects other than religion, reading, and math are somewhat less important, and you can skip these on days when you don’t have enough time to do everything. In the early years, first through fourth or fifth grade, approach science and history as reading exercises.
Don’t worry too much about your child remembering specific science details or historical dates as much as understanding what he or she is reading at the time. Children are more likely to remember details if they are understanding full-sentence concepts.
You will find out as your child studies the same topics in later grades, that the lessons read about in the early years turn out to be lessons remembered.