Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

How Can I Help My Older Son in High School with His Algebra?


In her latest Q & A to families, Dr. Mary Kay Clark offers several ideas to a mom looking for ways to help her older son in high school with his algebra.

How can I help my older son in high school with his algebra?

Sometimes an older sibling can help. If two students take the same courses together, they can help each other. Be flexible with the scheduling of high school courses. If your husband or a relative is not available, consider paying a nearby college student to help once or twice a week.

Ask at your parish for a retired or current math teacher who might like to make extra money by tutoring. If so, try to have two students take the same course together. This is also practical for foreign language courses.

We advise you to have tutors come to your house so you can observe what is happening.

How can I manage all the classes for three children?

If two of the children can take the same class or classes together, try that. Just because a child is a certain age does not mean he needs to be in a certain grade. For example, a child who struggles with math likely will do better being in a lower level book with a younger student.

Another idea is simply to put two children together in the same grade level, even if the older student could handle higher level courses. If the older student becomes bored with a course, such as spelling, assign him to be a “teacher’s assistant” and tutor his younger sibling.

Many families have high school students take the same classes together, especially in math, science, and a foreign language.

Should I stay by my son’s side for his math lessons?

How much you need to be by your son’s side depends on his needs. Some young students struggle with their reading and may need help understanding the directions or questions in the math book.

Once you think he understands the concept, have him do several problems on his own, and then check his work later. Dad or an older sibling also might be able to oversee his math.
In addition to math, reading and English are important subjects to oversee closely.

With these subjects, it is important for children to learn early concepts well in order to be successful with future work.

We enrolled our daughter in Seton’s 8th grade, but she is struggling with everything.

Seton provides many resources for struggling students. Counselors skilled in every subject are available by phone or email Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 Eastern time. We also have many online tutorial videos in various subjects. Seton Educational Media also sell supplemental materials that can be helpful.

For students who need more help than parents can give, we recommend finding a local tutor if possible. (Although our phone counselors can help somewhat, they are not a replacement for an actual tutor working with your student on a regular basis.)

If a local tutor is not possible, there are online tutoring services as well. Sometimes a problem in math or English can be resolved within a few sessions of basic explanation, so you might not incur a large expense.

Although students sometimes struggle in many subjects, the main problem areas are usually math and English. A student struggling in 8th grade math and English can drop down to 7th grade math and English while still overall remaining in 8th grade.

In fact, the way 7th and 8th grade English are structured, it is easily possible to work through 7th grade English and then go into the second semester of 8th grade English. For more information about changing course levels, please contact one of our counselors.

Remember, you don’t have to finish a grade level in exactly 36 weeks. You can take longer and you really should take longer if that is necessary for the student to learn. With high school right around the corner, 8th grade is really an important time of preparation for more in-depth learning to come.

My son is in 9th grade and is looking forward to accessing help online.

Our 9th grade English lesson plans are now available online. There are several tutoring videos included in the course. The 11th grade and 12th grade English classes will be up soon, followed by the Literature courses. Emails will be sent to students when the courses go up online.

All students enrolled in any of the high school English courses have access to online video Composition lessons, which were made by an English professor from Christendom College.

How do I grade the paragraphs my son is writing for an at-home grade?

The lesson plans for the English courses give specific directions for the student and the parent. Read over the lesson plans and make sure your son follows the directions.

Basically, you are looking at the topic sentence and making sure the middle sentences rationally follow the topic sentence according to the instructions, and do not go “off topic.” The directions usually indicate the middle sentences should follow logically in time, or in location, or in importance.

My 6th & 8th graders are doing schoolwork from 9 to 4 every day. Is this normal? It seems too long.

From surveys which Seton has done of homeschoolers, we find that the “sweet spot” for the length of the homeschooling day is about 6 hours. Families who take about that time doing school work seem to be the most successful. Much less than 6 hours may be too little to learn all the concepts, and much more than 6 hours may result in student and parent burnout.

If you are taking an hour for lunch, then a 9 to 4 day would be six hours of study, so your time is about right.

Of course, the optimal time can vary from student to student and from grade level to grade level. You need to find what works for your family and for each child. If your students seem to take a very long time to do assignments that should be quick, you need to determine whether the issue is a learning problem or simply lack of motivation.

You can try an experiment to determine this. In the morning, tell the children that if everyone finishes their day’s work by a certain time—a time somewhat shorter than their usual work day—then you will take them on a fun outing.

If your children finish in record time, then you know they haven’t been applying themselves other days. But if they struggle to finish on time, then you know there may be an underlying academic problem.

Regarding study time, it doesn’t have to be all in one daily block. You can split it up in any way that works for your family.

For example, many families schedule reading time in the evening, or set aside a block of time on Saturday to do one course. Experiment, and keep doing whatever works.

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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