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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Your Questions… Answered

What is the best advice you can give to start off the new school year?

5 minutes

What is the best advice you can give to start off the new school year?

Daily family prayer is essential for success in Catholic homeschooling. Start the day with prayer, pray the Rosary at some time during the day, and pray frequent short prayers throughout the day. Daily Mass is important so everyone has a chance to receive Jesus Christ. If you cannot attend daily Mass, perhaps you and your children can join in the prayers at the daily Mass on EWTN.

The second best advice is this: work out a realistic daily schedule and try very hard to stick with it. If you have a baby or toddler who takes you away from your schedule, have a plan for what each child should do when you are busy. Each child should continue working the current assignment without you, or you should have something each should do until you return to help them. You need to work this out for each child based upon the subjects each child likes to do, or can do if you are not available. One student may love math; have him do a math page if you are not available. Another child may love to read the history book; have her do that while you are busy with the baby.

Some moms have an older child who can help a younger student when mom is not available. If you have the lesson plans available, an older child can follow the lessons. Give directions to the children about how you are proceeding. Let them see you use the lesson plans so they can follow them on their own if you are not available.

Inevitably, moms will sometimes be pulled away from homeschooling, but having a plan for the children when this happens gives you assurance that homeschooling is still progressing.

I am concerned that the grade level work may be too difficult for my child.

When parents start homeschooling, they are not always aware of the grade level in which their child should be in for every subject. Parents soon recognize that a child is doing well in some subjects, but does not seem to be on the same grade level in other subjects.

Seton recommends that parents who are just starting homeschooling give a Placement Test to their child. Test only one section, or at the most two sections, in one day so that your child can focus enough attention on each section, such as computation or reading comprehension. The test may not be totally accurate but can give a good idea of a student’s ability in reading, math, and English. Once you begin homeschooling, if you find your child behind in a subject, Seton is happy to send a lower level textbook.

There is nothing worse than a student who is constantly unhappy struggling to learn concepts that he is simply not intellectually ready to learn. Homeschooling provides parents and student the opportunity to work together to start where the child is ready and able to learn.

If your student is struggling, try to find out if he needs a lower level book. It is better to start at a lower level and review concepts, and have him learn lower concepts well so he can be successful and happy, and thus ready to learn more advanced concepts. After all, you can enroll your child in the next grade level, subject by subject, at any time. Seton has no school calendar.

My 10th grader seems to need more of my time than I can give him because of the needs of my younger children. Should I think about hiring a tutor?

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There are a lot of possibilities. First, could your husband oversee your son’s schoolwork, either before he goes to work or in the evening? At this age, your son may simply need to be reassured that he is doing the work correctly. Often a dad finds the same tendencies in his son as he himself experienced in past years and consequently is likely the best tutor for his son.

Second, Seton has plenty of resources for students on our website. On your MySeton page, under Resources for each subject, he may find just the help he needs. The Chapter Notes, the Audio Lectures, and the new Videos (though still limited) could be of great help. If he needs help with algebra or geometry, we do have computer disks which provide tutoring for every lesson.

Your son may phone or email one of our counselors for a particular issue or problem. We also have a Message Board for various courses; he may find answers there from a counselor, or ideas from other students.

Depending on the subject, your high schooler might find help on the Internet, but you need to be careful about your son using the Internet or spending too much time on the computer. For safety reasons, we recommend that a computer be located in a central area of the house, such as a dining room or kitchen.

If you think you need a tutor, be sure you know the person, perhaps someone from your family, a retired teacher, or someone you know at church. The tutor should not need to come in more than once a week just to answer questions from the past week or give tips for the upcoming assignments. You might consider a college student who was homeschooled.

Must I return the lesson plans from last year? what do I need to keep on file from last year’s work of my children?

Please return the lesson plans. We do not use them over again, so feel free to write in them or highlight whatever you want. Obviously, the lesson plans are a result of many members of our Seton staff over a period of many years. Every year, we review them to improve them and update them as books change. Because of these changes, the lesson plans are not suitable for reuse.

Depending on the friendliness of your state and/or local school district, you should keep a certain amount of “evidence” of work done. While your children are in the elementary grades, you might want to keep graded quarterly tests. Once your child enters high school, these may be discarded.

For a high school student, keep at least samples of the graded quarterly tests. Since many tests are now graded over the Internet, you probably have copies of some assignments on your computer. Computers do break down and lose data, though, so you want to be sure to make backups. An easy way to make backups is to copy work to one of the many free storage sites online. Several sites, such as Microsoft Skydrive or Box.Net, offer lots of space for free.

As long as you are enrolled with Seton, you will have access to all Seton-graded tests and assignments through your MySeton page. If you leave Seton, the work will still be stored on our computers, but you will no longer have access to your MySeton page to retrieve it. (If you need copies, though, we will send them to you even if you’re not enrolled.)

Once your student reaches 18, you no longer need to keep any proof of work completed.

Sometimes my day is taken up with doctors’ appointments or attending to the children’s grandparents. How can I help my children keep up with their assignments?

You and your children should be praying every day for constant help from the patron saints of your children.

As much as you can, prepare assignments ahead of time, or be sure your children know where they can look in their lesson plans for their assignments if you are suddenly called to Grandma’s house, or you need to take the baby to the doctor.

Try rewarding your children for doing their work while you are gone. The reward needs to be instant, or when you get home, or that evening. Do not wait until the next day or the weekend. To a child, tomorrow might as well be next year. Money always is appreciated, even if it is only a quarter. Another treat would be a special pizza dinner or a favorite ice cream dessert.

Tell the children that if they cannot do one assignment without help, to go on to another assignment. Some children like to “excuse” themselves because they cannot “get past” an assignment which requires help.

Dad needs to back up Mom’s directions. God has given dads an authoritative way which encourages the children to be obedient. Mom needs to rely on Dad to be involved in the education of the children. Dads are valuable, if not absolutely necessary, for the well-rounded education of their children.

If grandparents or other relatives are available, ask them to come and help the children while you are at your appointments. Sometimes homeschooling families help each other. You can take your children over to your friend’s house for a time, and when your friend needs you to help, she can bring her children to your house.

Why doesn’t Seton have a foreign language offering for elementary grade levels?

While we do sell foreign language books for elementary grade levels, we do not want to put pressure on families or children to start a foreign language. Obviously, if parents or grandparents want children in the family to learn a language, we encourage that most heartily. Nevertheless, it is not required by any state and we believe this decision should be left to parents.

If you look on our website, click on our book catalog, or call one of our Seton Educational Media counselors, you will find books and audios for teaching Spanish, French, and Latin to younger children.

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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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