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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Your Questions… Answered

My Son Won’t Pay Attention to His Studies: How Do I Keep Him on Track?

4 minutes

My son does not have a learning disability but tends to drift off in his own little world. Do you have any suggestions to keep him on track?

Students like this tend to be overlooked in a classroom situation, and often fall seriously behind in the junior high grade levels.

Stay alert to his study habits. Try to recognize the signs of inattention spans; they may relate to certain foods at breakfast or lunchtime. They may relate to not enough activity at certain times of the day. It may even mean he is staying up too late at night. You can correct these situations.
Intersperse the courses which are more sedentary with the courses which can be more active. One trick I tried with my boys was to give them active household chores between subjects.

If possible, have him help a younger child. Nothing strengthens learning more than teaching it. Classroom studies have shown that students with learning problems improve when they teach a younger child.

My friend wants to know if she can enroll her daughter in January. And if so, will Seton accept credits for the half-year high school courses?

Seton does accept credits from other high schools. However, if there are too many non-academic courses, such as sewing and cooking and gym, we would need to adjust her curriculum to make sure she completes the required courses for graduation. We require a certain number of English, math, foreign language, and so on, and cannot substitute sewing, for example, for a required course for graduation.

My daughter will be starting 8th grade in the fall, but I need to reassure my husband that she will be prepared for high school courses.

Seton is very dedicated about our students being adequately prepared for the high school program. If students in 8th grade do well in the English and composition courses, they should do well in most of the high school courses. Another important area is Algebra. An 8th grade student should obtain good grades in 8th grade pre-algebra to do well in 9th grade Algebra. If your daughter needs extra help, there are many possible sources. If your student is using the Saxon Algebra 1/2 book, Seton has DVD’s which go along with the book and explain the problems in depth. Alternatively, there is plenty of help available online for specific math topics, such as from Khan Academy. For more personalized help, some parents ask a teacher from the parish to help for an hour once a week.

We enrolled in Seton late. Where do we start? How do I do parent grades?

Families can enroll at any time, so no one is late. The “yearly” schedule is up to you as well as the rate at which your child progresses through the courses. No matter when you enroll your children, you should start at the beginning of the Seton grade level lesson plans. You need to make sure that your child has learned whatever Seton included from the beginning of that grade level.

You will quickly identify which lessons your child has already learned and can advance through rather quickly. One way to “test” your child is to have him do the assignments at the end of the chapters, and take the chapter tests. If your child obtains a perfect or nearly perfect score in Chapter One math, repeat the same procedure for Chapter Two math. Perhaps by the time your child takes Chapter Three, you will realize he needs to study his multiplication tables, and do the problems in Chapter Three. Then you can continue from there.

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You likely will find your son needs to work more in some areas and not as much in others. This is one reason why home schooling is the best kind of schooling: the lessons can be adjusted subject by subject, according to the needs and abilities of the individual student!

Parent grades give the parent the option of having Seton average parent weekly grades or tests with the tests graded by Seton. Parent grades are optional but usually raise the quarter grade for the student. You may enter parent grades on the printed quarter report forms, or you can enter them online.

I love your study guides. Why don’t you have them for all your courses?

We know that parents like our study guides, and we are happy to provide them, but we do believe that students need to get used to making their own study guides. Part of the study process is making an outline of the material, and then studying from it. Once our graduates reach college, they will basically be on their own for studying, so good skills at making study guides will become essential. An important part of the study and learning process, in fact an important part of obtaining a good education, is for the student to make his or her own study guide.

Making a study guide is not difficult. We encourage parents to help their children make study guides in much the same way a parent would teach a job around the house: show your child how to do it, then help your child do one or two, then watch your child do one or two on his own with your critique, then encourage your child to do his own in all his courses.

The Seton website has a study skills course and the directions for making an outline, which is what a study guide is. It is included in the last few lessons of the course.

For additional help, there are sample study guides/outlines on the internet, and some are presented in videos.

The key to a good study guide is to keep it short but meaningful in using key words and key ideas, and not make it so long and so complex that it is impossible to study. In that sense, each student must create and use a few study guides to see what works best for him or her.

My son in 4th grade is having trouble with interpreting directions in his phonics and even in his Reader. Is this a typical problem with 4th grade boys?

Actually, it is not unusual. The first three grades are rather easy as the young children are beginning to learn facts and simple study skills. In fourth grade, the first “middle school” grade, students are introduced to more challenging reading selections and more challenging ideas.

One thing to consider is simply to slow down and take as much time for the fourth grade courses as your son needs to master the skills. One pattern we notice, however, is that these boys move ahead in math more quickly. Be sure your son is challenged in those areas in which he is doing well and move him ahead in that subject, such as math. In home schooling with Seton, he can take courses in different grade levels according to his ability.

My student is flying through the first grade material and I would like to enroll him in second grade.

We don’t encourage students moving ahead into the next grade level unless the student is doing unusually well in all subjects. We would recommend that the student move ahead in only one or two subject areas to see how he does. More often than not, we see happy children who are very successful in their studies become unhappy as they need to struggle with the more advanced studies in the next grade level. You don’t want to dampen their spirit for home schooling.

If your child is finishing up quickly every day, make sure your child has good books to read. Constantly reading books is about the most important thing a second grade student can do to improve in almost all subjects. If your child is somewhat book-averse, try offering a small monetary reward for each book the student reads. It might be the best few dollars you ever spend.

Besides books, consider having your son do a science project with Dad or visit a history museum or become involved in a local home schooling sports activity.

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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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