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A Rail to Run On: Best Practices for Using Seton’s Lesson Plans - by Mary Ellen Barrett

A Rail to Run On: Best Practices for Using Seton’s Lesson Plans


Mary Ellen Barrett offers her advice for those advanced curriculum planners, how to organize and stay three weeks ahead so that she’s flexible for anything.

Soon the boxes will arrive and the excitement of a new year’s worth of lesson plans will engulf the Barrett home.

Actually, I’ll be the one who is most excited; my husband just smiles indulgently at my giddiness and the children will only quickly glance through the Lesson Plans before disappearing in stark terror of being asked to do something right then. Seton plans have been part of our life a long time now and I am so grateful to have this “rail to run on”.

When the lesson plans arrive I put each set in a binder and attach sticky tabs to divide by subject on the right side.

Making a List

Over the coming days I will go through each subject with my large planner and make a monthly list, in pencil, of any supplies I will need for projects or experiments, or any books I would like to order or obtain from the library.

In addition, I will choose my quarter end dates and sketch out what days we will take off, when vacations begin and a tentative ending date for the year. This is all in pencil since I can’t be sure what the year will bring and being flexible is essential for a homeschool mom.

I also take the time to use my highlighter to mark those assignments which are to be turned in to Seton. In this way, if we get behind or there is an overwhelming amount to accomplish in a given week, I can see at a glance what is most important.

I love using the Seton teacher planners to write out the day’s plan for each child. I usually only plan three weeks in advance, so I sit with the lesson plans and write out in the book what is to be accomplished each day.

This gives me a good handle on each child’s workload as well as giving me time to plan extras, such as going on a field trip or acquiring an ingredient for a science experiment.

Free to be Flexible

Doing only three weeks at a time really gives me a lot of freedom to adjust our year as things come up. So many Seton moms feel that they are “behind” when they take time to go on a field trip or if the stomach bug attacks and nothing gets accomplished for a week.

While no one can plan for an illness, if you know that you need time to help out a sick relative, or a new baby is arriving during the school year, planning this into the schedule relieves the feeling that you aren’t accomplishing anything and allows you to increase the workload during more quiet times in life.

If mom writes out the plans for the whole year in one sitting then you might be constantly readjusting and erasing, but spending one Sunday every three weeks writing things up and reading all the tidbits about how to present a lesson gives a great feeling of freedom and flexibility.

Changing the Plans

Now, as much as I am a fan of having that “rail to run on,” it often makes sense to change the plans in order to accommodate individual learning issues or to lessen the burdens on mom. If, as I have been the last few years, you are homeschooling six or more children, you may need to tweak things in order to get everything done. For example:

With the younger kids, I write their spelling words on sticky notes, and when it’s time to alphabetize the words (usually Wednesday), the children can stick them on the wall in alphabetical order. I can see at a glance it’s done and move along, while the stickies are moved to the children’s bedroom wall for review. It’s easier and fun.

When my kids write English papers, their first drafts can be dictated into a recorder and then written out. This allows for some self-correcting, is a little more fun, and frees mom for something else.

For our state study projects (4th grade), the girls like to make beautiful scrapbooks of their work, whereas the boys (who couldn’t care less about a scrapbook) like to do the work and present it in a trifold poster-board. Allowing the work to progress in these ways keeps the kids’ interest in the subject, teaches some independence and creativity, and allows for mom to be in a more supervisory role.

The lesson plans can be a daunting proposition; however, when approached with the intention to create a lifestyle of learning in the home and when used with an organized and sensible approach, the book lists, project ideas, movie suggestions, and all of the other extras enhance your child’s education and create a joyful, peaceful place in which children can learn, grow, and flourish.

That is a rail it’s a pleasure to run on!

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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