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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Your Questions… Answered

Your Questions Answered

7 minutes

I feel like my life is a treadmill.  It’s always running ahead of me and I am always trying to catch up.

My book, Catholic Home Schooling, has a chapter on “Home Management” which has some ideas you might want to use. Also, we sell a great book by Ginny Seuffert called Home Management Essentials, which gives ten quick ideas about how to bring your home under control.

One problem we all have is wasting time looking for things, whether it be books or school supplies. This is often caused by lack of preparation.  Consider ordering your materials during the summer and take the time to organize all your supplies. You may need to throw out or give away old supplies you have never used. Consider clearing out “stuff” from several rooms in your house, maybe one room per month.

Organize the school supplies in those big plastic buckets or tubs you see at the stores. Purchase them in different sizes and different colors. Be sure you purchase the tops so you can stack them. Use them for current homeschooling materials, but store them away with other materials for future use, such as off-season clothes.

Ask your children once or twice a year to gather up some of their toys to give to the local second-hand shop or for your local church rummage sale. Throw out or give away at least one piece of furniture from each room. Just organizing and reducing the things in the house will give you more time and less hassle cleaning!

Very few parents can homeschool successfully without a daily planner. I have lived by a planner since high school. Start your junior high and high school students on their own daily planner. If they have their own planner, they are more likely to follow it.

Not only will you know what to do and when, you will not be in a perpetual frantic state or feel you are on a treadmill. Purchase a Seton Daily Planner, fill in your half-hour schedule realistically, and then live by it, at least as much as you can. With children there are frequent, maybe daily, changes in your plan, but most of us with planners manage to finish up either later when the kids are in bed, or very early in the morning. We moms need to schedule and plan for the unexpected. Backup plans are essential for less stress when things don’t go smoothly.

Some people like having things written down in a plan book, but others feel more comfortable keeping their schedule electronically.  This certainly does have advantages, such as being able to schedule reminders throughout the day.

Schedule chores for all your children. This gives them daily physical exercise between their classes. Schedule kitchen duty, bathroom duty, laundry duty, vacuuming, and anything else they can do to help you.  Everyone is learning, and everyone is working to keep the home clean, neat, and organized.

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Teach your children the importance of being a responsible citizen of the family. Older children can help supervise younger children, or you can have a team of a younger with an older child.

Teach your children the importance of throwing out stuff, giving away stuff, doing family or household chores, and working a plan.

What are your suggestions for the music and art classes?

These classes need to be for only one hour per week. Perhaps an older sister or brother would like to help with the younger children, thus accomplishing the class for both. Sometimes a grandmother or an aunt or a friendly artistic or musical neighbor might come over, or invite your children to go to her house for friendly weekly music or art classes.

Check the music or art classes at local community centers, libraries, museums, and so on. Even a few classes for a few months, or over the summer, can give your children some good experiences in the areas of music and art.

Some amazing things can happen when a musical instrument or a watercolor paint set is put in the hands of a child!

Many a famous musician began with just a second-hand instrument.

My husband likes math and wants to teach my son, but using his own materials. How can I obtain a grade in math from Seton if I don’t use your books?

I would suggest that your husband look at our tests and teach along with what our courses teach, so that your son can still take our tests. It is not unusual for a parent to want to use a favorite math textbook, but for Seton to record a grade, we need to have the student take our tests.

Your husband can give the tests at any time when he believes your son is ready for the test. They may even be taken out of order. Your husband may want to refer to our textbook along with his lessons in case the vocabulary might be slightly different.

How can I get everything done in these final months of the school year?

There are a number of things to think about, such as finding a couple of hours on weekends when the children can finish their assignments as you think is best.

One time after a move, I asked the children if they would rather work extra on the weekends or work into the summer months. I was pleased how dedicated they were to doing their work on the weekend. No fiddling around on the weekend!

Consider having your high school student who is behind in one subject, do one hour with Dad when he comes home in the evening, or one hour before he goes to work. Consider having a college student in the neighborhood come in for one hour two days a week to help your high school student move along with his assignments.

Think about “summer school” for the month of July for any student not finished with his English and math. Some families go all summer with just a few courses, especially math and phonics and reading. Studies have shown that students forget over the summer much of what they learned during the year, so schooling at a relaxed pace over the summer is often a good idea.

With older students, work out a schedule and help them to stick with it.  When students have some control over their schedules, they are more likely to stick to them.

Realize that perhaps a student may need an extra few months to conquer a subject, such as math or English, and could take it next year.

Remember, homeschooling is about moving a child at his own pace, at a pace that is best for him. Don’t push if his brain is not quite ready!

Try to remain calm, say prayers to your children’s patron saints, and just keep moving ahead, one day at a time.  Moving forward is progress, even when you are moving slowly.

I think my son may have a learning disability. He seems to be struggling.

Keep in mind that each one of us develops differently and at different rates and ages. You cannot expect that by some arbitrary age a student will be reading or doing long division.

If you would like some professional advice, call Stephen Costanzo in our Special Services Department.

Our website explains not only the department but also answers several special services questions. Stephen helps parents to adjust the Seton program or he suggests alternative learning materials. We have a program for dyslexia and individualized programs for other learning methods.

How can I help my 5th grade boy become more of an independent learner so I can work more with the younger children?

We do want our children to learn to be independent learners, but at the same time, we need to balance that with being involved enough so that we are giving them the values, ideas, and perspectives we want them to learn from us.

You might assign some work independently for some days of the week, but then be more involved on other days. The spelling, phonics, and vocabulary could be done independently on the later days of the week, but on Monday, you might go over the initial concepts.

In courses like these, you want to emphasize any ideas that relate to Catholic values as well.  Beginning reading assignments in history and science could be done independently but in mid-week, you want to be sure your son is understanding the concepts or you may want to add your own ideas or examples.

Math, English, and reading are subjects that you want to oversee daily so that there are no misconceptions which might be repeated and need to be “unlearned” later. You want to be involved with beginning chapters in Religion, but certainly his writing and memorizing work can be done on his own.

As time goes on, you will become aware of those subjects he can do successfully without your daily attention. Be careful, however, with paragraph and book report assignments. With these assignments, you need to be helping or directing very closely.

Seton has an online study course which is designed for grades 7 through 12, but you might want to look at that for ideas that might help your son.

I’m hearing a lot lately about Common Core. How can my student be prepared for Common Core-based standardized tests?

First off, although almost all states have adopted the Common Core standards, so far no state has adopted Common Core based standardized tests.  Alabama is now considering doing so, and it is possible that other states may adopt such Common Core standardized testing in the future.  The states which require testing usually offer a range of tests from which parents can choose.  The Common Core based tests will likely be added as an option at some point, but it seems unlikely they would be mandated at any point in the near future.

Currently Seton Testing Services offers not only the CAT test but also the Iowa and the Terra Nova tests.

Homeschooled students in general, and Seton students particularly, have always done very well on standardized tests.  We expect that trend to continue, regardless of what tests are adopted by the various states.

There are several ways for your student to prepare for standardized tests. Find on the internet free sample questions which provide practice for your student. Purchase books or find in the library books which give practice questions and usually provide the “thinking” behind each question, particularly in the area of math.

Enroll your student in a local standardized SAT or ACT test preparation class, or find a teacher who would help prepare your student. Find on the internet an official free online SAT preparation test course. Purchase an ACT and SAT study guide book, such as The Official Study Guide for the SAT Subject Tests, published by The College Board.

The best preparation for your student is to keep doing the daily work, and give the standardized tests we offer each year.  Course grades and standardized test reports can help determine where your student needs more instruction or practice.

While Seton provides the CAT test free for enrolled students, you may purchase from us the Iowa Test or the Terra Nova test, which are more in-depth tests and may give more information about a student’s progress.

Would it be okay for my 7th grader to redo a test before I send it in? He does not understand an important concept in division of fractions.

Especially for the elementary grade levels, it is important for parents to be sure that the student knows the material before taking the test. As teachers in classrooms do, you should give your student a review of the material or at least a review of what type of questions may be expected on the test.

However, if your student does not do well on the test, go ahead and review the misunderstood or not-yet-learned material. Have your student redo those test questions, without telling him the correct answer, of course.

Another possibility is to create a pre-test for your student.  Write down several problems similar to the ones on the Seton test and see how your student does on those.  Based upon this pre-test, you can have your student take the Seton test, or do more review.

Remember, you are homeschooling with Seton because you want your student to learn the material, not for Seton simply to record grades.

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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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