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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

What’s a Good Rule of Thumb on Moving Children Ahead a Grade?


Parents should make the final decision, but Dr. Mary Kay Clark says be careful with these subjects to avoid leaving a student with critical knowledge gaps.

My friend says she is advancing her 4th grader into 6th grade math because he knows all the material so well. Is that a good idea?

Parents should make the final decision, but we don’t recommend advancing a student by omitting a grade level in any subject area that depends on previous skills.

Math, English, and foreign languages are subjects that need constant review and practice, even after the basic concepts are learned. Skipping a grade level in those subjects can leave a student with knowledge gaps.

The courses in which you could move a bright student up a level or two are religion, history, and science, as well as spelling and vocabulary. We suggest only moving students up if their grades are consistently high.

My husband would like our older child to start helping with home schooling the younger children.

That is fine if the older student can keep up with her own work and continue to do very well. Some families ask an older student to act as an “assistant teacher” for younger ones. In a few families, a high school graduate takes a part-time job for a year and helps with home schooling the younger ones.

This can also be an effective tactic if a higher grade level student needs remedial practice. For example, if you have a 7th grade student who needs more math practice, you can have that student tutor a 5th grade student. That will actually help both students.

How can I help my son with his book analysis if I don’t have time to read the book myself?

The book analyses are meant to help students use inductive thinking skills, to make students think about the reasons for supporting their topic sentence. The student must consider the actions and words of a character, and come to a conclusion.

Even if parents do not read the books, parents can help their children by asking the children to talk about what they are reading for the book report. Some families ask children to share what they read at dinnertime. Retelling story events can help students review and think about the reasons why a character spoke or acted as he or she did.

It is very important that both parents and students read the book analysis directions in the lesson plans before the student begins reading the book. That way, the student knows exactly what to look for in the book.

We suggest that students use a highlighter to underline parts of the book which the student can use as examples when writing the book analysis. If a student highlights important parts, it should be very easy to go to the book and find specifics that will be needed in the analysis.

Once your student writes the book analysis, we suggest that parents look it over to see whether the student has written a persuasive analysis with good examples. In other words, do the examples cited by the student prove the assertions made about the character?

What do you think about parish home school classes?

Some moms like sending their children to a “tutoring” class at the local parish. The children can meet other Catholic home schoolers. However, some of the usual classroom problems do arise, so parents need to be questioning their children.

A slow student or a student who has learning issues, or a student who needs more explanation, can be made to feel inadequate. Parents need to be very alert for possible situations such as these.

That said, it is certainly worth considering, especially in more technical areas where the parish teacher may have special training. For example, a parent may have difficulty teaching a foreign language class or a computer programming class. A class a couple of times a week at the parish taught by an expert could be a real help in such cases.

What should I emphasize for my son about learning math?

Our Seton math counselor gives the following answer: While English is a tool of Communication, Math is a tool of Order. Through learning math, students can develop the thinking skills to manage their lives. Some students need to “toil” at math problems, but hard work is essential to be successful in life.

Many students fail at math because of carelessness in either “reading” the math problem or being careless in doing the problem. Legibility in writing the math problems is absolutely essential. Neatness is absolutely essential. Many students who have wrong answers cannot read their own writing of the math problem.

From reviewing the tests of many math students, it seems that too many students don’t take the time to think about the problem; rather, they just write a quick answer.

Repetition is important in learning everything, at least for most of us. While the rate of comprehension—that is grasping and understanding math concepts—varies greatly among students, retention of what we have studied comes to all students mainly by repetition.

When I enroll, can I choose the books for the book reports?

Yes, you can choose the book report books for 4th through 8th grades when you enroll. If you enroll online, then you would need to list the book titles you want in the Comment textbox on the Household Information tab. Just list the books you want for each grade level. If you enroll by phone, simply tell your admissions counselor your book choices.

To see your book choices for saint books and novels, you can view our Elementary Course Catalog at

I have a friend with a son at the local high school. His son would like to enroll in just one course at Seton to make up for a course he did not pass.

We have many students who enroll in Seton for one course to make up for a failed course in another school. Because we are accredited, it is usually not a problem for the other school to accept our course for their graduation requirements. We encourage students to take such courses over the summer, however, when they can focus on the work and put in the time and effort needed to obtain a high grade.

Can you explain how independent study works regarding high school course credits?

Students can take courses as “independent study,” either on their own or at a co-op, and these courses can count toward graduation requirements. If they are, for example, math or science courses, they can take the place of required courses.

You can take courses outside of the core subjects, such as a driver’s education or a music course, which can count as an elective credit toward the total credits needed for graduation. Independent study credits do not count toward a student’s GPA, but they do count toward graduation and the credits will be listed on the student’s transcript.

There are some subject areas in which we do not permit students to do independent study: religion, English, history, literature, and government. (An exception to this general rule is that students who are citizens of countries other than the United States may do an independent study of the history or government of their country.)

The reason for this is that we feel that these are areas in which a Catholic perspective is very much needed, and an independent study course is unlikely to provide that perspective.

For more information please see this page:

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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