Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

To Have the Best Homeschool Personalize Your Lesson Plans


Moms ask if you can provide a real childhood experience for your kids along with an excellent education. Yes, but there is a catch says Mary Ellen Barrett.

When speaking to Seton moms I am often asked about “adding in the fun things” to the day.

It seems overwhelming to so many moms to add things to the lesson plans when there are only so many hours in the day and lessons take so much time. This leads to feeling like the beauty of homeschooling, time to pursue interests, is squashed in the day to day madness of trying to accomplish everything.

Been there, done that. We all want our children’s education to be both wide and generous. We want time to explore interests, read good books (not just the ones in the plans), spend time outdoors, play games, and goof around as children should.

These are some of the very reasons many of us chose homeschooling: to provide a real childhood experience for our children as well as an excellent education.

I assure you that both can be done. It was always important to me to share books with my children. I have been an avid reader since I can remember, and raising readers was an important factor in our decision to homeschool the children.

Family Traditions

Establishing traditions was also very important to me as a younger mother. Traditions centered around our faith, our heritage, and around the seasons. We live in the northeast and so we have our very distinct seasons, and I wanted my children to appreciate them in the context of God’s wondrous creation. However, all of this takes time.

How do I fit it all in? Here’s the secret. You don’t have to fit everything in.

The lesson plans should serve your homeschool; they should not be the master. There are some families that set their children in front of the lesson plans and use all the suggestions, do every assignment, and enjoy all the supplemental suggestions.

This is wonderful, and if that is your way of homeschooling, Seton is delighted that you make such use of the plans.

However, if you are a mom who would like to use the plans as a guide, a jumping off point, a rail for you to run on; that is wonderful, and if that is your way of homeschooling Seton is also delighted that you make such use of the plans.

It’s YOUR Homeschool

You see what I mean? It’s your homeschool, not Seton’s. You are in charge and never, ever will the Seton police come to the door and ask what you are doing. Therefore if you wish to add in some seasonal homeschooling ideas you should do so and enjoy yourself!

How do you do this and how do you decide where to fit it in? Here are my suggestions:


When my children were young, up until third grade, I made sure to schedule a fourday week.

Yes, this meant that there was usually more time spent on math on those four days and we doubled up on English here and there, but this schedule left our Friday’s free.

Even if you just manage the schedule so that there are only two or three subjects on Friday, which I try to do through middle school, this leaves a large portion of the day for art projects, science experiments, park days, nature walks, museum trips, visiting grandparents, library excursions and anything else you can think of.

I often set up our table with an art project on Thursday night so that the creativity could begin as soon as they woke up. Paper, colored pencils, watercolors, modeling clay, glue and tissue paper are not too messy and can spark creativity and make great memories.

Picking and Choosing

The lesson plans provide a variety of assignments for your children to complete, some meant to be graded at Seton and others meant to be parent graded. In some grades and subjects there are even extra assignments based upon a child’s interest or need of practice.

Your MySeton page also has suggestions and supplemental ideas. The best kept secret in homeschooling is that you only need do what you want to do. If having a Seton graded report card is important to you (and I highly recommend it for high school), then you need only send in the assignments to be graded by Seton.

Any other assignments are optional. If a Seton graded report card is not as important to you, feel free to submit nothing, or as little as you choose. Some families like to have independent grading for things such as English, Reading and Religion, but it’s entirely up to you, the parent. Either way, you can free up enough time to add the extras that make your homeschool unique to you.

Make it your own

How does this all work out in practice? In my homeschool, we start with morning time, fueled by a basket full of materials that I selectively gather each month. I use this “soft start” to the day to include materials not specifically covered in the lesson plans but things that I want to expose the children to.

When they were very young, this included things like learning the Pledge of Allegiance, memorizing our address and phone number, reciting poetry, and, for the toddlers, some songs and finger play.

As my children have aged, this time now includes art history, composer study, Shakespeare, apologetics, Bible study, finally, the family read aloud. I find I’m much more able to read-aloud to the children in the morning than in the evening.

Some families prefer this quiet time before bed and I think that is a beautiful idea, particularly if dad can be home to do the reading. Bedtime reading fosters such good memories and family bonding.

However, at this season in our lives, with adult children, working teens, many driving obligations, and long work hours it makes more sense for us, right now, to fit this in during the morning.

Recent read-a-louds here have been; Little Men, Farmer Boy, Plutarch’s Lives for Boys and Girls, A Nest for Celeste and Bridge to Terabithia. Some of these books are a first-time read for me as well, so my joy in the story is equal to that of the children’s.

Often during read-a-loud time, I will let the younger ones color or paint. Studies show that children, particularly boys, retain information better when their hands are occupied, and I have noticed that it does cut down on chatter.

Seton Home Study School is here to help parents create the best Catholic homeschool experience for their family. Your homeschool won’t look like mine, and mine doesn’t look like someone else’s, and that is totally appropriate.

Seton counselors and graders stand at the ready to help and advise, but you, the parent are in charge, and we encourage you to use the lesson plans in your own way.

We pray you find success and joy in homeschooling your children.

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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