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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Is It Okay for Me to Look at the Tests Before My Son Takes Them?


Seton Home Study School’s Dr. Mary Kay Clark has advice on test prep, the most important subjects, and the best ways to develop thinking and writing skills.

Is it okay for me to look at the tests before my son takes them?

Absolutely, you should look at the tests because you can see clearly what the important points or lessons are that he should be sure to learn.

By seeing what is on the test, you can help your student by emphasizing the most important sections of the lessons. It is not at all uncommon for teachers, before a test, to let students know the areas of study which will be tested.

You shouldn’t give your student the actual questions from the test, but you can give a general idea of what is on the test.

As an example, for a history test, you might say something such as, “You’ll need to know about Washington’s time at Valley Forge and crossing the Delaware.”

For a math test, you might say, “You’ll need to know about improper fractions and percentages.” Giving the student a general idea of what is on the test does not constitute cheating or improper assistance.

What subjects are the most important for me to focus on for my grade school children?

Religion is the most important, of course, as our children are learning what they need to know and practice for their eternal life. Otherwise, reading and thinking skills are extremely important, so be sure to take the necessary time for all their reading, writing, and grammar assignments.

Grammar is one of the best lessons in developing clear thinking skills. Writing out thoughts and either answering reading questions or developing a topic sentence for a book report stretches the brain. The math lessons also are important for developing clear thinking when approaching problems.

My neighbor wonders if her son could take just one or two classes with Seton. She asked which would be the best to develop thinking and writing skills?

Yes, students may take one or two courses with Seton. In fact, as we develop our online courses, we expect to see more and more students—even those who don’t consider themselves homeschoolers—taking a course here and there in order to develop their skills.

Many teachers believe that English, with its demand for understanding the relationship of ideas, is best for developing analytical skills. Seton Reading assignments also develop logical thinking and writing skills. Seton’s two Reading Workbook series, Reading for Comprehension and Reading Thinking Skills also are great for these analytical skills.

My son cannot seem to sit still long enough to do his assignments! Any suggestions?

There is no rule that students must sit still to learn. Boys, and even some girls, often learn better when they are moving!

With seven sons, I let them sit or stand or lie on the floor upside-down to read. My boys especially liked standing up and writing on a blackboard (painted green, in my case). They also liked doing things together and challenging one another. Try putting two children in the same grade level in one or two courses, and let them have fun “competing” with each other.

By the way, I found that my boys worked better when they could be active between classes. They would jump rope, ride a bicycle, put in a load of laundry, or deliver a finished load of laundry upstairs. Once a gym teacher showed us a series of exercises to practice, my boys loved that!

We just started Seton and my daughter has had none of the grammar in the 6th grade English book. What do I do now?

Apparently many schools no longer teach grammar and writing/thinking skills. Learning grammar and the relationships of ideas and the clear presentation of ideas is essential to clear thinking, clear writing, and success in any career.

Some students will need to start a grade level or two back. If a student has never heard the word “noun,” she likely will find it difficult to start in the upper-grade levels. I would recommend purchasing a 4th or 5th-grade level book for easier explanations. She may be able to do the 6th-grade assignments after reviewing the explanations in the earlier grade levels.

I have trouble staying organized with my homeschooling materials. I am busy with taking care of the younger children, as well as keeping the house organized, kitchen clean, and clothes washed.

Life is like that, but we can work to change it. Focus on organizing the children to take care of maintaining the house, clothes, the younger children, the meals, and whatever else needs to be done.

When I was homeschooling, I found the children loved to have an “activity” between their classes. You will find that if you give the children an activity between their lessons, they are actually more ready to sit down and do their more “relaxing” schoolwork.

You can assign an older student-child to take care of a little one’s activity for a half hour; then the student will be more “ready” to sit down for math problems. That worked for my family, but you’ll have to experiment to find what works for yours.

Seton Educational Media sells several books on discipline and home management, including some very useful titles from Ginny Seuffert.

About 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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