Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Preparing Our Children for Success With Seton


The Cairnie family achieves homeschooling success by using the Seton curriculum, following the lesson plans every day, and adding many breaks and chores.

After touring our local schools, whose strongest selling point was the computers made available to kindergarteners (instead of books…). My husband and I said, “No thanks!” and decided then to home school our children.

We promised each other we would continue this effort as long as the results were successful. We have had our share of hurdles, but by the Grace of God and the beautiful partnership we have with Seton Home Study School, we have continued to successfully educate our 8 children for 17 years!

During a recent conversation with Dr. Mary Kay Clark, she commented that others might like to hear the success story we have experienced with our Seton graduates and how Seton helped prepare them for their futures. This success has put fuel in our gas tank as parents, but has also given us a bird’s-eye-view of what hard work and perseverance can lead to; a valuable data point for our remaining five children who are still working their way through our home school.

Three Seton Graduates

Elizabeth, our oldest, graduated from Seton in 2013 after completing 13 years of Seton education. She attended Penn State University and graduated a Schreyer Honors Scholar with a double major in Global Studies and International Business. During this time she travelled to South Africa and Norway, and studied for 5 months in New Zealand.

Upon graduation, she accepted a Human Resource position with Air Liquide, North American headquarters in Houston, Texas. She loves her job and has immersed herself in a new group of friends at work and at St. John Vianney Catholic Church (her confirmation saint!) which is just a block away from where she lives – God is so good!

Mark, our second born, graduated from Seton in 2015 and is currently attending Penn State University. He, too, has been accepted into the Schreyer Honors College and has maintained a 4.0 while working toward an Electrical Engineering degree with a minor in Physics. He was recently recruited by Applied Research Labs (a university affiliated research center) and is conducting undergraduate research for the U.S. Navy.

Our most recent graduate, our son George, will be attending the Reading Hospital School of Health Sciences in conjunction with Alvernia University where he will be working toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing with plans to attain a master’s degree in Anesthesiology. This is a challenge he is looking forward to and is beginning this new endeavor with great confidence!

Both Mark and Elizabeth have stated numerous times that completing Seton’s curriculum prepared them beautifully for college. Their writing and critical thinking skills were well honed, allowing them to approach their college courses with assurance and achieve high scores on their assignments. Able to analyze, argue, and communicate, they added valuable discourse to their classroom settings. Mark and Elizabeth entered college with confidence and the skills they needed to succeed, including the ability to manage their time and work independently.

Our Plan for School

Our general approach to using Seton’s curriculum is “Do it all!” We immerse ourselves in our home education and make it a priority over extracurricular activities, following Seton’s well organized lesson plans each day. To accomplish this we have sacrificed a much needed bedroom for the sake of a “school room” complete with chalkboard, desks, maps, and more, creating a perfect place for learning.

Maintaining a Monday through Friday school week, we begin classes early in the morning and keep a formal schedule throughout the day. Our days are full but we incorporate many breaks and chores, so that by the time we get to the end of a day, not only is all the schooling complete but our home is in order, too. The house is clean, garden tended to, laundry done, chickens cared for, and dinner on the table! Of course, not every day is perfect but we strive toward these goals each day.

Although our goal is to accomplish the lesson plans in their entirety, we all know how “life” can get in the way; illness, harvest time, a new baby, and more. We have learned that it’s OK to cut some corners when necessary, and have implemented some of the following techniques.

Sometimes, we will alternate spelling and vocabulary, instead of doing both. Recently, I have decided to do either the Reading Comprehension workbook OR the reader assignments. Sometimes, instead of memorizing all catechism questions for the weekly quiz, we just memorize the ones that will show up on the quarter test.

We have consolidated two Saxon math chapters a week, allowing the kids to complete four problem sets a week and take all math tests on Friday. Although the math consolidation is an ongoing practice, everything else is implemented on an “as-needed” basis only; we do not make it the norm. If possible, I highly recommend completing all that Seton has prescribed in their lesson plans, as it definitely leads to a rock-solid education.

A Family That Plays Together…

Clearly academics take center stage in our home school, but we certainly need to have fun and develop outside interests too. Because of our commitment to homeschooling and the size of our family, we have to be very selective in choosing outside activities. We try to practice a “one-stop-shop” philosophy, choosing activities that transcend all ages and focus on developing interests that can be carried forward throughout our lives.

So, our family took up skiing; we joined a homeschool ski club and were able to learn to ski and enjoy the activity all winter long for a rock bottom price! The kids all swim in leagues or on the local high school varsity team. In fact, our son George made it all the way to states last year! We are blessed to have an active parish which allows the kids and our family to be involved with many parish activities as well as an active community providing thriving 4-H groups and scouting.

In addition to these group activities, we encourage our children to develop themselves with many practical life skills and fun hobbies. Some play piano or guitar. Everyone can bake and cook and are so helpful in the kitchen!

The girls can sew and crochet; some of their projects have placed at the county and state fair. We garden, can and freeze food, and even take care of backyard chickens. The boys have carpentry skills and know basic plumbing and electric (they put an entire addition on the house!)

Having taught himself how to forge, our son George started a business making custom forged knives and displays them at a local artist showroom. Our son Mark taught himself all about computers (so much for computers in kindergarten, right?) and built the computer I am typing on right now! So, one can see that although we have made academics the primary focus of our home school, we have also made time for much personal development, preparing our children to be independent!

Lessons We’ve Learned

Anyone who has home schooled knows both the joy and challenge of it all. Despite our dedication and faith, our organized curriculum, and great kids, there have been moments throughout the years when we were ready to give up and take an easier road – send them all to school! But doesn’t everyone have moments like this in every line of work and vocation? Yes!

Fortunately, we overcame these hurdles and got to witness the “end game” called our children’s success – they are independent, steadfast in their faith, strong members of their communities, and happy! This is gas in our tank! My husband and I love homeschooling and we love Seton!

This life choice and partnership has promoted strong family bonds, strong character and work ethic among our children, and has facilitated growth in our faith as a family. Completing the Seton curriculum three times and seeing the great happiness and success of our oldest children makes us realize how right the decision was to home school and how right the decision was to choose Seton as our curriculum provider. It clearly paid off in so many ways!

Above all, we have prayed every step of the way for God’s blessing upon our work and vocation as parents, and we know that Seton has been behind us, praying too for the success and happiness of all its families. Without God’s blessing and grace none of this would be possible.

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