Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

What’s the Most Important Thing I Need to Do as I Start the New School Year?

What is the most important thing I need to do as I start the new school year?

Besides praying with your children every day, start the year by taking the time to go through all the books and lesson plans and tests to see what is expected of your student, and to realize what you need to do as your child progresses through the year. It is best not to begin without proper preparation, which means spending several hours of quiet time going through all the materials so you have a good idea of what needs to be done by you and what needs to be done by your student.

Perhaps most important, you need to figure out which subjects will demand your time sitting down next to your students, and which subjects students can do on their own with you simply explaining and then checking over.

Consider asking your husband to help with at least one or two subjects, either before he leaves for work, in the evening, or on the weekends. Perhaps the most important thing to do is talking with your husband and making sure he is involved. Children love having their dads help them in their studies.

Is it important for me to follow the lesson plans as written?

Yes and no. If you are just starting home schooling, definitely you want to follow the lesson plans for at least the first month or so to become familiar with how the program works, and also to learn just where your child needs extra help and where your child may be able to do some work independently.

After the first month, you will learn that he can do some lessons pretty much on his own, such as spelling or vocabulary. However, you may discover he does not know his multiplication tables as well as he should and needs more work in this area.

After a while, you can and should adjust the time frame needed for each subject. However, we do suggest that for the first year, try to do all the lessons for each subject. For the second year, you may find that you can make some adjustments with times or even with extra exercises that you think are needed.

I would like to put both my 4th grade and 5th grade boys into the 5th grade history so they can take the course together. Is there any disadvantage?

In some subject areas, children in adjacent grades can certainly work together in the same subject. It can be helpful to both students as well as mom and dad. You may consider what is best, for the older to move to the lower level history, or for the younger to move to the higher level history.

One thing to look out for is a rather dramatic difference in the learning ability between the two brothers. If so, to prevent any “difficult” feelings between them, you might want to return back to each working in his own level textbook.

How often may I phone or email a counselor for my questions?

We have no restrictions on the number of calls or emails. If your question is a simple matter requiring a straightforward answer, we suggest that you email rather than call. An email gives our counselors a chance to look up the answer and respond. If you need to talk a problem over with a counselor, then by all means call.

Parent calls and emails are actually very important in helping us to improve our program. We do keep a record of the questions which come in and make changes in our lesson plans or additions to our lesson plans as a result of parent questions. Parent calls regarding corrections or additions needed in our Seton-produced books are recorded and referred to when we reprint our books.

Don’t forget the 19 Message Boards that Seton provides for parents, and students, to share ideas on both general and specific subject areas. Go to Seton’s page and scroll down to Seton Message Board to look for a subject area that might have some helpful suggestions for you.

What is the advantage to send the tests over the internet to Seton?

Many moms find that they like to send the tests over the internet so they can be graded more quickly. Children also like to see their test results more quickly. The graded tests are sent back for parents and students to see the grader’s comments.

Another benefit is that sending the tests over the internet saves a trip to the post office, and also the postage to mail the work to Seton. When tests or assignments are done on paper and are waiting around the house to be sent in, they can be misplaced or destroyed accidentally. Electronically submitted assignments never have this problem.

Why can’t I substitute a book I like better than the Seton book report book?

To put it briefly, our graders cannot grade a book report adequately for a book they have not read. However, if you have books that you want your children to read, consider having a little family book club and have your children give oral reports to the family at dinnertime. Children certainly can become excited about discussing the ideas presented in books.

Seton provides a Supplemental Reading List at the back of each grade level Reading lesson plans. If you cannot find a book, some of these may be available online for printing out. Check out “Catholic Children’s E-books” on the internet.

Why don’t you include teaching a foreign language for students in the elementary grades?

Our standard elementary curriculum has quite a few subjects already, and it would be burdensome for many families to include an additional required subject. We do sell elementary level books for Spanish, French, and Latin if parents want them.

If parents or grandparents speak any foreign language, they should definitely make sure that the children are learning that language. It not only gives the children a better understanding of the structure of language, but it gives them an appreciation of a different culture, it gives them pride for their own family stories, and a broader view of the world.

What do I say to members of my parish who think homeschooling is a bad idea for our children?

The important thing is not to criticize those who think they are helping you because they are concerned about you and your family. Listen patiently and try to appreciate their concern. Emphasize, however, not what is wrong with the local schools, but rather the positive features and experiences you and your children are having.

Are your children learning better at home than they were in school? Mention that.

Are your children learning new things and growing in their faith? Mention that. Are the parents learning new things about their Catholic Faith that they never knew? Mention that as well.

You might also want to mention that research into homeschooling shows that it offers many benefits over traditional schooling. The fact that homeschoolers score well over national averages on standardized tests is just the beginning. For statistical information about the benefits of homeschooling, check out the National Home Education Research Institute.


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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