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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Lesson Plan Tips and Tricks: Getting Lessons Done Painlessly


Mary Ellen Barrett has spoken to hundreds of Seton moms and shares their best tips and tricks for using the lesson plans and getting the school work done.

The Seton lesson plans guide parents in teaching skills and concepts but they are not carved in stone nor are they meant to overwhelm any family. Use what is useful and put aside what is not.

I thought that sharing some handy tips passed along to me via the IHM conferences, Facebook groups, and my own observations would be helpful.


If you have a student that generally does well in math and finished well the previous year you may test them out of the first few lessons in the new book, since these are generally just reviews of the previous book.

Start by giving the first test of the year right away. If your child does well give the next test and so on until you get to where new material is being taught. You will likely get a few weeks ahead which is always a nice feeling for both student and mom.

Book Reviews

Make a copy of the questions before the book is read and go over them with your student. Then as he/she is reading, they can make notes on the copied sheet to help remember what they’ve read. This can serve as a rough first draft.

Making use of post-notes as page markers for pertinent passages is also helpful for students struggling with the writing of the reviews.

Book Reports

Read all of the book report books during summer as soon as possible. Reading aloud along with your child, taking turns reading aloud, or each reading a chapter to yourselves and spending a few minutes in the discussion are all great ways to help a reluctant reader.

When it comes to writing the book report, have your child dictate their first draft into a recorder (on your phone or computer) and then let them type it out as they listen. This gets your first draft on paper in a less painful way and makes edits easier as well.

Have your child read the first draft aloud to you so they can hear for themselves any grammar or punctuation mistakes. This also helps train their ears for good writing and speaking habits. Then all that remains is editing and a final, clean copy.


Write out the week’s spelling words on post-it notes and have your child put them in alphabetical order on the wall near where they work. I have them do it on our sliding glass door, so they get to see them every time they go outside to play.

As they complete the work in the spelling book over the week find time to stop and have a few pop quizzes by asking them to spell one or two of the words during the day.

They can spell while they wash dishes, sweep a floor or while you are on the way to the baseball diamond. Correct answers can be rewarded with a small treat, or stopping to play a game such as hangman or word searches.

There is a fun and useful website where you can make many kinds of spelling and vocabulary games for free, and they have a small annual fee that grants you access to more choices. It is


The last page of each lesson in the Seton vocabulary books is a crossword puzzle, complete with the definitions. Do that page first! Once your child knows how to use a dictionary, and you are confident in that skill, you can skip this time-consuming part of the vocabulary lesson and have them start with the puzzle.

It is always more enjoyable to begin with a game and the following day when your student does the first page of the lesson, which is writing the definition, they can just refer to the puzzle page.

It sounds like a small thing but it saves a great deal of time and the student is more likely to learn the definitions if they aren’t overwhelmed with the idea of an hour spent searching in the dictionary.

My Seton Page

Using your My Seton page on the website saves a great deal of time when it comes to taking some of the tests, getting extra help (click on the resources tab), and uploading work to be graded. It’s an easy and intuitive web page and if you run into difficulty, just call the Seton office and someone will be glad to help.

I hope you find some of these suggestions helpful, and please share your ideas with us on the Seton Facebook page or share by Tweeting or Instagramming them using the hashtag #Setontips.

About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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