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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

What is Most Important to Prepare for the New School Year?


New school year? Dr. Mary Kay Clark says having definite plans about what the children should do and when will help even the youngest feel more comfortable.

What is most important to prepare for the new school year?

Having a plan and starting out as scheduled will not only help you to feel in control, it will help your children see that you are, in fact, prepared and in control.

Your children look to you to be organized and thus help them to be organized. Even the youngest feel more comfortable when you are in control, and you have definite plans about what they should do, and when.

Make the lesson plans your best friend. Show your children the lesson plans, pointing out that there is a daily plan for them to succeed.

Remind them that if something comes up, such as you being sick or needing to go to a doctor’s appointment, the lesson plans are their guide. Help them to be as comfortable with the lesson plans as you are. You could have a “practice day” by asking the kids to do their lessons for a day as if you were not home. That way, no matter what happens, there will be a plan and school can keep going.

How can I make our fifth homeschooling year a little more exciting for the children?

Change the location. Ask your children for ideas about making the schoolroom a little different.

You could choose a different room, or you could paint the room a different color and/or re-arrange the desks or seating arrangements.

You might see about teaching the little ones in the dining room around a table, and have the older ones choose a sunny breakfast room. Before the cold sets in, consider classes on the porch outside, or at a picnic table!

Consider having your high school student work at the library one afternoon a week.

Change the schedule. Start with a different subject in the morning. Assign oral book reports to be given to the family at dinnertime. Change the times for the household assignments.

Schedule physical activities between classes. Try art work or music, or putting on a load of laundry or washing the dishes between classes, or trying a new recipe for the family. In good weather, try a 15-minute break for tossing around a football or playing basketball.

Change the teacher. Have Dad teach a class, if not during the week, try Saturday or Sunday. The children and Dad will love it! Have an older child help with a younger child. A third or fourth grader could help a first grader with math or phonics.

Schedule an older sibling as a teacher assistant to help a younger one in math or English.


What is the most important ingredient for a successful homeschooling year?

Prayer. Start the day with your own prayer and meditation, even if it’s only five minutes before you leave your bedroom. Begin the school day with prayer with your children and keep it up frequently all day long! Attend Mass almost every day with the children whenever possible.

Secondly, remind your children at least once a week if not daily, that our Catholic education is vital to reach our eternal reward in Heaven. Schooling at home means they will receive a Catholic education that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

I have a young teenage son and a six-year-old son. Both resist me almost continually.

There are a couple of things you can try. One thing you might want to do is incentivize them to do their schoolwork. You might do this by giving rewards. Rewards can take many different forms.

For example, suppose your six-year-old son likes to go to the pool. You can tell him that if he finishes his work by 2:00 pm that day you will take him to the pool. Sometimes financial incentives work well, especially for older students. You might tell your teenage son that he can have a dollar every day he finishes his work by a certain time. Besides money, screen time is often a great incentive.

You can also incentivize your children by having competitions. For example, you could have a math competition, in which the first one of your students to finish his math gets a prize.

One side benefit of using incentives and competitions is that you will find out how much work your students can really do. When a student dawdles and does not apply himself, it’s hard to tell what he could actually do if he tried. But if a student really wants that dollar or that trip, and works diligently, but still cannot finish, then you know that there really is too much work for him.

Another thing you might try, especially with your older student, is giving him as much input into controlling his own education as possible. For example, is he particularly interested in a certain subject (airplanes, the Civil War, paleontology, etc.)? If so, try as much as possible to work his interests into his schoolwork.

Sometimes when students resist doing their schoolwork it’s because they see a rift between mom and dad on the subject. If mom is committed to homeschooling, but dad makes it known that he is not committed, the kids can pick up on that and resist.

If the kids think that dad is opposed to homeschooling, or just not committed, it’s good to have dad talk to the kids and emphasize how important their schoolwork is and tell them that he expects them to do their best.

If your husband is able to teach one subject, that might be a good way to get him involved and be a good change of pace for your students.

If the problem is not limited to schoolwork, but is about discipline in general, you might want to check out some of the discipline books available through Seton Educational Media (

Can I homeschool successfully if I work part-time?

It won’t be easy, but we have letters from moms who live a life of constantly balancing a job and homeschooling.

Though they are stretched, they know they are keeping the children safe from anti-Catholic ideas and unsafe situations. These moms teach the older ones how to help the younger ones with assignments, and often involve grandparents, aunts and uncles, or close friends with tutoring help or financial help.

Organization is always important to successful homeschooling, but when you are working and teaching, it becomes even more paramount. You and the children need to have a daily schedule, and you all need to stick to it as closely as possible.

The schedule needs to have a firm time for waking up, for eating, for doing the homeschooling, and for chores. If you have older children, you may need to lean heavily on one or two of them. It may not exactly be “fair,” but everyone will need to be contribute what they can.

When making the schedule, include your children in the planning. You don’t want to impose the schedule on your children, but rather meet with them and figure out what is best together. Giving the children some input and control over the schedule will help them stick to it.

There’s no doubt it is challenging when mom has to work, and some days are better, some not so good. Praying together as a family is essential, as is everyone understanding why your family has adopted the homeschooling lifestyle.

You should explain, at least to the older children, why you are putting forth the effort that you are. If they are honest with themselves, they will likely realize that your homeschool is a far better place for them than their local public high school.

How should I prepare to teach three children and a pre-schooler?

Consider taking a day to go through a school day with each child on an individual basis.

Take Monday with the oldest child and go through all the lessons and all the books. Point out the tests and what kinds of information he will be expected to know. Take Tuesday for the second child, go through a typical school day for him. The third child will be looking for his turn on Wednesday.

As you do these overviews, be sure to include who will be doing which household chores, such as putting on a load of laundry, taking the laundry out of the dryer, putting the dishes in the dishwasher, taking a turn with babysitting.

Be sure each child has his name marked on his or her own cup to reduce constant washing of many cups a day!

Don’t have more dishes and silverware available than the number of people in the family.

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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