Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Is it Necessary to Memorize the Catechism Answers?


In this round of Q & A’s from homeschool families, Dr. Mary Kay Clark responds to memorizing the catechism, standardized testing, summer school, and more.

Why is it necessary to memorize the catechism answers word for word?

It always has been the desire of the Church that we know our catechism by memory, so that we might have a solid foundation upon which to build our faith.

The parish schools were quite adamant about memorizing the catechism because it was understood that the lessons of the catechism would be a first line of defense for lay Catholics.

When in a difficult situation or conversation, those nuggets of catechism truths are a quick reference point for moral guidance. Needless to say, we are all to understand the catechism answers as well as being able to repeat them.

I feel pressure to finish up the school year by June. Yet my children need more time for math and writing their book reports. Should I stop for a summer break?

Take just a week break, then have the children spend a week or two finishing their quickest assignments, such as the math.

Perhaps take a second week break, then help everyone start preparing and writing the book reports.

Finishing up the quick assignments first gives students a sense of accomplishment and the confidence they can be successful with the next assignment.

Giving them a short break helps prevent burn-out for all of you. The likelihood is that you’ll still have time for a summer break in July and August, even if you take a short breather now.

Will you ever produce a 5th grade Seton math book?

Due to numerous prayers and work and persistence by a few, we are in the midst of producing a 5th grade Seton math book. We are reluctant to predict it will be ready by fall of 2016, but it is likely to be ready sometime soon after. Please keep this in your prayers.

As an aside, the new 5th grade Catholic science book is now on the shelves, written by a Catholic science teacher. The new 6th grade Catholic science book should be in print in 2017.

My son is an only child and he has been struggling lately. I wonder if he needs to be with other boys in a classroom.

I have never heard of a student doing better in a classroom situation than in an individual learning situation.

In fact, the opposite has proven true. Children, and adults for that matter, do better with individualized instruction than in a group or in a classroom.

The reason is that the lesson presentation can be adapted to the individual’s rate of learning and type of learning. The student can move ahead or slow down according to the student’s own ability. This is why homeschooling is so successful.

If you want your son to have some experience with being with other boys his age, find out about homeschooling group activities in your area. Some communities or churches have musical groups, or theatre groups or sports activities.

Check local homeschooling groups and your parish for local homeschoolers’ activities.

I don’t have enough time to spend with each child. What are the subjects I need to be assisting?

This depends greatly on each student’s need, ability, and grade level. At the elementary levels, Religion, Reading, English, and Math are important for developing thinking and writing skills.

Encourage your elementary children to do the spelling and vocabulary workbooks on their own. If you have older children or a relative or friend, perhaps the children could do their science and history with someone besides you overseeing.

Consider paying an older high school or college student (whom you know well and can trust) to come once or twice a week to help with some of the subjects.

If you have a high school student, determine which courses need help, and consider having a grandparent or other relative, or even paying a neighbor high school or college student you can trust to come once or twice a week.

However, you need to stay aware of what is being taught and direct the helpers. Keep them in sight and in hearing distance so you can be aware of what is happening.

Our family will be going on a vacation and spending a good deal of time traveling. Is it wise to take along some school books, or is it “pushing” too much on the children?

Education should be ongoing, though it does not always need to be formal.

Often in the evening, children need something to do while on vacation, and having some books available (even workbooks) makes it easy to stay busy. Crossword puzzles and other types of learning games are popular as are mystery books.

Look on our Seton website for enjoyable reading material that we suggest.

Libraries often give prizes for every book read and for which the student has produced a book report (note that the books must be on grade level!).

This summer, we are encouraging parents to join our Summer Reading Club for their children


I heard you have written your own Seton achievement tests. Will our local superintendent accept those, or do we still need to take the state or national achievement tests.

The new Seton Assessment tests are mainly placement tests, rather than achievement tests.

The main purpose of the Seton tests is to determine the level in which a student should be placed in subjects such as math, English, and reading; the Assessment tests can also be used at the end of the year to gauge progress.

Achievement tests (also called standardized tests, or nationally-normed tests) are rather different. Achievement tests are meant to determine the ability of students relative to other students. That’s why achievement tests come with percentiles and stanine levels, and the scores a student receives are only loosely related to the number of right and wrong answers a student gives.

In states where testing is required, the acceptable legal test for meeting the requirement is the standardized test. So, the short answer to whether you can submit Seton Assessment tests to meet the testing requirement is, no, you cannot.

If you need a test to submit to your local school board, you should order the CAT test, or the Terra Nova test, or the Iowa test, or the Stanford test. Those four tests are all acceptable to meet state requirements.

The Seton Assessment is included at no cost for grades K-10 and can be sent after your student completes third quarter work by emailing or calling the Testing Department at (testing@setontesting.com or 540-636-1250).  Please provide your family number and the names of the students who will be testing. If you need to purchase one of the standardized tests to meet state requirements, let us know and we can send you the test of your choice. Unfortunately, we can’t provide the standardized tests for free, but we do give a discount to enrolled families.   The Testing Department will be happy to provide you with the discount code if ordering online at www.setontesting.com  or ordering over the phone.

My son in kindergarten is not ready for first grade math, and my friend says her son in first grade is not ready for second grade reading. Must we move our boys up to the next grade level if we believe they are not ready?

The parents are always in charge. We would not put the two boys into any grade without the parents’ decision. What we suggest is that you go back and review the past lessons, perhaps ordering a “fresh” workbook.

Teach the concepts again, at the pace that seems best. It is likely both boys will go through their books the second time in half the time. You can order the next level book at anytime. In the meantime, you can begin next level classwork in other subjects.

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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