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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Your Questions… Answered

What are Your Favorite Tips for Organizing the Home for Schooling?

5 minutes

What are your favorite tips for organizing the home for schooling?

Organizing the home? First, throw away or give away everything you can. You need the space for teaching. If you haven’t used something in the last ten years, what are the chances you will ever need it again?  If something is in very good shape, you can try selling it on eBay.  If it’s not in great shape but serviceable, you can try giving it away.  But if you don’t need it, and you can’t sell it, and you can’t give it away, it’s time for it to go in the trash can.

Regarding where and how to study, some families like to use actual school desks.  Otherwise, the best thing is a good solid table at the right height for the children to sit with their feet on the floor. Teach in rooms with good sunlight, or should I say, great sunlight! On warm days, the children could do schoolwork on your deck or on the picnic table in the backyard. Make home schooling the daily “business” of the day.

Be sure your children have enough exercise between classes. They should not sit all day long. Some schoolwork can be done at a whiteboard where the children can stand while diagramming sentences or working on math problems, or outlining a chapter. Household chores can be done between classes rather than at the end of the day; this gives the children exercise during the day.

If you have a relative nearby who would like to help out, ask for the help, even if it is only an hour or two once a week. The relative might be great at teaching science or a foreign language.

Strengthen your family. Keep reminding your children about members of the family who may not be present. Especially relate stories about members of the family who have lived in the past and made personal sacrifices for their family. Tell about family members who worked on a farm or who worked in a factory, or who served Mass while as a boy or who served Mass when he was elderly. Show pictures from family scrapbooks. Being a part of the family history can mean a good deal to influence children to want to do better.

My child was in an accelerated program at the local school. Can he skip a grade?

We never recommend skipping a grade, no matter what the test results might be. Too many times, students who skip a grade have problems on one course or another. Students and parents usually regret whenever a grade is skipped.

If you have a bright child, let the student go through the next grade level at a faster pace than usual. When the student finishes it, even if in half the time, he or she can advance to the next grade level. You don’t have to think of a grade level taking a year, as it would in a brick and mortar school. We believe students should keep moving ahead, subject by subject, as they successfully complete courses or grade levels.

How long should study time be for a high school student?

No one can answer this question for someone else. It is different for different people. Some students can review their math or work their assignments in half an hour, other students may take an hour. Some students can study more effectively in the sciences and foreign languages, but struggle with English. The time of day also influences a student’s ability for effective study.

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Good study skills which are appropriate for the particular student are really learned from experience, and they are not the same for each subject.

As a rule, we have found a correlation between more time spent studying and being more successful at home schooling.  However, this is only true up to a certain point.  When a student studies too much, it can lead to fatigue, frustration, and burnout.  The real trick is to find the proper studying time that’s not too much or too little.

In general, since home school students can use their daytime hours for studying, study time after daytime hours should be shorter than those for students enrolled in a traditional school. Usually that time is spent for reading book report books.

Ultimately, it is up to the parents working with their child to determine what amount of time is needed as well as what exactly needs to be done efficiently after the regular “school” day.
If you feel a student is not using time wisely, the Seton Study Skills course (available on the front page of the Seton website) may be helpful.

My friend is thinking about sending her high school boy back to a school. What advice can I give her?

It’s human nature to think that the “grass is greener” on the other side of the fence.  It’s also human nature to focus on any current problems we might be having, without thinking about problems we might incur if we do something else.

Your friend presumably made a conscious choice to homeschool.  Sending children off to a school is the more normal, matter of course, thing to do.  She must have had reasons for choosing homeschooling.  Whatever those reasons were, are they still valid?  Was the boy having trouble in school and not making educational progress?  Was the school not the safe and welcoming place the parents wanted for their child?  Was the environment hostile to the Catholic faith?  Or did the parents simply think they could do a better job passing on facts, as well as the Faith, than the local school?  Whatever the reason was, have things changed?

Sometimes, it is a good idea for a parent to make an extended visit to the proposed school.  If possible, a parent might spend a day or two at the school: attending classes, walking through the halls, watching school activities, even riding the bus.  Once the parent sees the school, he or she should ask, “Is this a place where I want my child to spend 7 or 8 hours a day, 5 days a week?  Is this a place where I would want to spend that much time?”  The answers to those questions will go a long way toward making a decision about what is the best educational choice for a child.

I’d like my husband to be more a part of our homeschooling.  What do you suggest I do?

The first thing you might do is consider the situation objectively, and ask yourself what you might reasonably expect from your husband.  If your husband works a desk job five minutes from home, you can reasonably expect more than if he works a tiring construction job or if his commute to work every day is two hours in each direction.

The next thing is to find a time when your husband could help out.  Some fathers help with home schooling for an hour or a half hour before they go to work. Some fathers help on a weekend when they are more relaxed.

It doesn’t have to be a lot of time.  Even an hour or two on a weekend can be a big help for mom and the student. Most dads enjoy a special time to interact with their children, and children love having Dad’s attention.

See what interests Dad and the children have in common and build from there.  Lots of activities are not only great bonding opportunities, but learning experiences as well.  Does Dad like woodworking?  Perhaps he can teach it to the children.  Does Dad have a particular interest in the Civil War or aviation?  Maybe Dad and the kids can go a battlefield or museum.

It’s great to work your husband into family activities, even when they are not specifically school activities.  For example, say the daily family rosary at a regular time as a family, especially when Dad is home. If you are all going to the park or the library, encourage your husband to come along.

Sometimes, it just takes an invitation.

Where can I find the list of videos and audios available for my son?

Seton lists these under Course Resources under My Seton. Most are for high school students. Both parents and students should go on the Seton website and look at everything Seton offers to help students in the particular grade level or courses. Seton has produced nearly 300 videos, mainly for English courses, and nearly 300 audios for English, History, and foreign languages.

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About Dr. Mary Kay Clark

Dr. Mary Kay Clark
Director of Seton for more than 25 years. Dr. Clark left Mater Dei Academy and began teaching her children at home at seeing firsthand the opportunities and the pitfalls of private schooling. Meet Dr. Clark | See her book
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