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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Your Questions… Answered

Can Parents Really Teach a Subject as Well as an Educated and Experienced Teacher?

7 minutes

1. There has been so much discussion on the internet about the Common Core program being implemented in schools, even in Catholic schools. What will you be doing about the Common Core?

2. My son is struggling with his 8th grade studies. I notice he enjoys playing with the younger children and prefers activities which are popular for younger boys.

3. Can parents really teach a subject as well as an educated and experienced teacher?

4. Because I need to work part-time, I don’t have the time to write outlines and study guides for my children.

5. Sometimes I don’t have time to call Seton with a question until nighttime when the children are in bed. What are the ways I can reach you? What helps are available in the late evening hours?

6. How can I help my son enjoy reading? He is struggling with it.

7. Are you writing more Catholic books for the high school courses?

8. As we are finishing up the school year, I wonder how we can get it all done by the end of June.

1. There has been so much discussion on the internet about the Common Core program being implemented in schools, even in Catholic schools. What will you be doing about the Common Core?

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We have no plans of adopting anything relating to the Common Core standards. We are an independent Catholic school and will continue to have our Catholic books and Catholic curriculum.

Rather than Common Core, we believe in Common Heritage, which is the tried and true knowledge and ideas of Western Civilization and Catholic culture. It is this Common Heritage which we have always passed on, and which will continue to guide our curriculum.

2. My son is struggling with his 8th grade studies. I notice he enjoys playing with the younger children and prefers activities which are popular for younger boys.

It is not unusual for some children to “grow up” at a later age. Parents who recognize this often wait until their child is six years old before starting kindergarten. Parents who start these children at the usual early age sometimes discover that by 4th or 5th grade, they are struggling, especially with reading comprehension and analysis skills.

We need to think differently about learning readiness. Schools find it easier to group children in certain grades based on their age and not on their abilities. This means that some children will fall behind, and may remain behind all through their school years. It also means that some children are bored from their first year in school, and often become discipline problems by the time they reach seventh or eighth grade. Their minds cannot stand the boredom and the slowness of the class lessons.

All of this is to say that you should be more concerned with your child’s developmental age rather than his chronological age. If he is not ready for more advanced studies or such a rapid pace, consider slowing down the lessons and give him extra time to mature. Pray to St. Joseph of Cupertino, who struggled with his studies, to help your son.

3. Can parents really teach a subject as well as an educated and experienced teacher?

The best teacher is the one who understands the child the best, which means understanding how a child learns. Individualized instruction, geared for the ability of the individual child, helps the child learn more quickly with better retention. Individualized instruction helps the child understand concepts more easily because the parent teaches the lessons at the rate at which the child is actually learning. In a classroom situation, the teacher teaches according to methods she thinks is best for the majority of the children, and at the rate she thinks is best for the group. She cannot take the time to analyze how well an individual student has learned a new concept, nor take the time to re-teach the concept to an individual student.

Besides the time and method of teaching, children who have the same genes as their parents tend to have the same strengths and weaknesses as their parents. Parents remember how they learned, and use these techniques with their own children, who in most cases, will learn best with the same techniques.

Best of all, parents love their children to such a degree that they take the extra steps, whatever it demands in time and patience and explanations, to help their child learn the concepts. Children recognize the love and dedication of their parents, and tend to respond by trying harder to learn their lessons.

Think of it this way. Teachers in public schools are usually certified in their subject and often have had formal training in teaching. Teachers in parochial schools are less likely to be certified or formally trained. If credentials were the important point then we would expect that public schools would be doing a much better job than parochial schools. But the truth is the other way around.

With Catholic homeschooling, we have the help of our patron saints as well as Jesus and His Blessed Mother.

4. Because I need to work part-time, I don’t have the time to write outlines and study guides for my children.

Students in 5th and 6th grades should be starting to learn study skills, including writing their own outlines or study guides. If you don’t have time to teach these study skills, you can refer to or download the Seton Study Skills course, which is available from a link on the front page of our website.

Convey to your student that outlines and study guides are essential to learning anything. If you do any of that kind of work at the office, share that with your child. If you need more help teaching study skills, check our Seton Educational Media website for workbooks such as Study Strategies. Check on the internet for “How to Outline a Chapter.”

5. Sometimes I don’t have time to call Seton with a question until nighttime when the children are in bed. What are the ways I can reach you? What helps are available in the late evening hours?

The academic counselors check their emails and phone calls every morning when they arrive about 9:00 A.M. Eastern Time. Please don’t hesitate to call. First check on our website for the proper extension for the counselor you want to reach. Click on  About Seton, then click on Meet Our Staff. Be sure to tell the counselor in which state you reside so that he or she does not wake you up when calling back.

Besides being available by phone, each counselor is available by email.

We also have a Message Board. There is one for the Elementary Grade Levels, and there are several for the subject areas for the High School Courses. These boards give you an opportunity to ask a question of our counselors, but also of the other homeschooling mothers and fathers who answer some of the questions based on their own experience. The Message Board serves not only as an Announcement Board from our counselors, but it also serves as a sharing of ideas for parents. In the high school Message Boards, we see students sharing ideas as well.

6. How can I help my son enjoy reading? He is struggling with it.

Young children love hearing stories and if you read stories to your son, he quickly learns that exciting adventures can be found in a book. This in itself should cause him to be interested in reading.

Once your son starts reading even three letter words, continue to read to him but find books which have large print for children to read. Then read only the words that you know he cannot read, but have him read the words you know he can read. If reading becomes a joint project, if you encourage him to read with you, he will start reading more himself. Be sure he reads from books which you know he can read. You don’t want him to be discouraged because he cannot read longer words or smaller-font words.

Because boys like to be active and play outside and ride their bikes, you will need to schedule the reading when he is ready, perhaps in the evening or early morning. Don’t try to have a reading class inside when the sunny weather entices him outside. Consider reading together outside at a picnic table. Encourage your child to write words or short sentences about what he sees outdoors, or what he likes to do outdoors. Reading his own writing is especially encouraging to a weak reader!

Try not to push your son too much, to the point where it becomes an “issue” to resist your invitation to read. Find large-print books that deal with animals or events which will interest him. You might be able to find something on the internet, an animal story for instance, which you can enlarge for him to read.

You may discover that your son is not quite ready for reading. He has a long life ahead of him; you don’t need to rush it. Have an eye doctor check his eyesight. Do not be overly concerned until he turns nine and seems not to “understand” the sounds of the letters. Also, you certainly may phone our Special Needs department. Look first on our website: Go to Curriculum, then scroll down to Special Services. Be sure to read the whole section before you call.

Try to remain calm and keep praying to your son’s patron saint. Prayer works miracles!

7. Are you writing more Catholic books for the high school courses?

Yes, we are, but we are also writing online courses in some subject areas. In the area of science, for example, an area in which there is constant updating needed, we believe an online course can “keep up” with recent discoveries. At the same time, an online course can present color images and videos which can show much more than a textbook. The Biology course is already online, and Earth Science is scheduled to be online shortly. Other science courses being designed are Physical Science and the 8th grade Life Science.

Our high school Spanish course offers not only the books and lesson plans, but two audios, one for pronunciation. In addition, our Spanish teacher, Manuel Vicente, has done quite a number of tutorial videos.

We also are designing high school online courses for History of Art, Geography, Economics, and American Government.

Almost all these courses will offer the option of a textbook.

We are already producing online tutorials. Right now, these are available for the English courses, mainly, but we will be making many more for several of the high school courses. In addition, we will have Study Skills courses.

Dr. Katherine Moran has done a series for our Seton students and parents on various techniques for teaching children, especially for children who might have special learning needs. We plan for these to be available online by the end of the summer.

8. As we are finishing up the school year, I wonder how we can get it all done by the end of June.

In order to finish up, you can try both increasing the time you spend and cut back on assignments.

To give yourself more time, consider having the children do some classes on Saturday so they can finish up. Most students would prefer that rather than going into the summer.

For the elementary levels, be sure to cover thoroughly the important concepts so that your children will be successful in the next grade level. The subjects that “build” on previous lessons from previous grades–such as religion, mathematics, reading and phonics, and English grammar and composition–must be well understood by your children. Your children need to spend the time necessary to “conquer” these subjects.

It is possible to cut down the time for the lessons in spelling, vocabulary, history, and science by doing more orally. Two chapters in Spelling and Vocabulary could be done in one week. Time for history and science chapters may be cut down with more oral reading, oral discussion, and answering chapter questions orally.

If you find that your end of June completion date is simply not doable, then add a couple more weeks onto your schedule.

Next September, help your children make a schedule so they will complete their lessons in the time you all want. If they fall behind in any one week, they should make up those lessons the following weekend. That way, there won’t be a terrible rush, and possible discouragement, at the end of the school year.

What is most important to keeping up is to stick to that daily schedule. If everyday you do what you need to do, you won’t fall behind.

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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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