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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources
Your Questions… Answered

How do I Keep Homeschooling with the Outside Trips Seemingly Every Day?

7 minutes

1. My son has finished his math. May I buy the next book and have him start on the next grade level?

2. Will you be making supplemental videos for the elementary grades?

3. I have six children. What assistance do you provide to help my children succeed?

4. I have been reusing the English books. Are the tests the same as for the new books?

5. How do I keep homeschooling with the outside trips seemingly every day?

6. Any suggestions for my second grade daughter who is struggling with math?

7. Why are standardized tests important?

8. When should I give the standardized test? How do I know if my child is ready?

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9. I am not sure my son will be able to complete all the work by June.

10. Are boys harder to teach?

1. My son has finished his math. May I buy the next book and have him start on the next grade level?

You certainly may do that, and we can record math grades for the next grade level. The next grade-level book will start out with a review of the lessons from the previous book, so he should do very well at first. However, at some point, usually about a quarter through the book, you will need him to slow down for the new concepts being presented. Sometimes the new concepts demand a little higher analysis skills for which your son may not be ready. With the higher level book, make him work out all the problems, not just some of the problems, at least initially.

2. Will you be making supplemental videos for the elementary grades?

We are not making plans to do more videos for the elementary grades, unless we see a need. Younger students should not spend much time in front of the computer. Homeschooling parents should be closely involved with teaching and helping their children, especially their younger children. The videos for the elementary grades, almost all on diagramming, are very brief, only a few minutes each.

For those of you who have heard Dr. Katie Moran at conferences, you may be interested in knowing that she has done a series of videos on learning styles. Those should be made available for our parents shortly.

We are selling DVDs through our SEM department for elementary grade levels for science projects, such as the Mr. Wizard series, which is excellent and was very popular on television for many years. The programs show Mr. Wizard helping young students do various science projects.

3. I have six children. What assistance do you provide to help my children succeed?

The lesson plans are your biggest help to teach your children, and as the children reach about 6th grade, children can often follow the lesson plans themselves in some subjects. Children can follow the directions to read a chapter, highlight important points, and even answer chapter questions. It is important, however, for you to ensure that your student understands the lessons and is doing well with the assignments.

Older children can sometimes help younger children by listening to them read, or watching them do some of their easier assignments, such as handwriting or spelling. You may want to consider putting in the same level two children who are not far apart in their learning skills, at least in some subjects. It is easier to teach two children in the same grade. Often the two children can help each other by quizzing each other or taking turns answering end- of-chapter questions.

High school students often take the same subjects together, which makes it easier for them and for the parents. This is most popular for science, religion, and language courses. Sometimes it is worth making slight adjustments so that both students can work together, even if an older student waits for the younger to catch up in a subject.

4. I have been reusing the English books. Are the tests the same as for the new books?

We know that some families try to re-use workbooks from year to year. In large families, where stretching income to meet expenses is always a challenge, this may be a necessary way to save money. We suggest that if you do this, you have the student write both the question and the answer on a separate sheet of paper. In a subject such as math, this is almost imperative to ensure that the student is solving the problem as written in the book. However, in any subject, it is pedagogically important that the student is able to see the question and the answer together.

Despite the savings, there are a few reasons why you might not want to re-use workbooks. The first is that using a separate sheet of paper is much less convenient for the student. Workbooks are popular specifically because they are easy to use. When a student must copy what is in the workbook, it introduces an extra step that may prove to be discouraging and may mean less learning in the long run.

Second, answers in a workbook are a great way of reviewing material at a later time. Questions and answers written on a separate sheet would be difficult to use later for review.

Third, Seton reviews and reformats workbooks every few years in response to parental input. Each time we go to press, we update books based on user feedback either to correct any errors, or to use better methodology, or to include relevant new material. Using an older book may mean using a book that is not as good as the newest version.

5. How do I keep homeschooling with the outside trips seemingly every day?

The ability to be able to go to all the wonderful events sometimes causes us to take time away from teaching our children. One phrase that comes up with business people is “Have a plan and work the plan.” We need to focus on what we need to do and do our very best to keep to our teaching schedule. Try to limit the outside activities. Though they are important, the academics should come first.

Some families have chosen to make music or sports of primary importance, which is certainly the family’s legitimate decision. This can make sense for a particularly gifted child. We have had world-class figure skaters, gymnasts, and musicians on the Seton program. However, when a child has five or six activities a week—dance class, drama, volunteer work, soccer practice, Church youth group, scouting—a decision often has to be made between these activities and educational time. Each of the activities is certainly good in itself, but the sheer mass of them all together can become detrimental to the homeschooling program.

The one outside trip you might make every day is to daily Mass. Thank God for all your blessings, and pray for all those who have children who are suffering in some way.

6. Any suggestions for my second grade daughter who is struggling with math?

Math is one of those subjects in the primary grade levels when sometimes you just need to wait until the child is ready for the abstract thinking that math demands. Keep presenting the lessons but don’t put pressure on your daughter. Skip around the lessons. She may be ready for geometric figures faster than three-digit subtraction. Consider online math games which might interest your daughter. Perhaps the colors and cartoon figures could encourage her to learn the math. Sometimes you can download them.

Try to stay calm. Sometimes a child becomes mentally “uptight” when mom seems upset about the child not learning the concepts quickly enough. Most of all, be patient. She is still very young. She has years ahead of her to learn math.

7. Why are standardized tests important?

Seton does not require parents to give their children a standardized test, but many states do require it of all the children in the state, no matter what kind of school they attend. Standardized test results are handy to have for relatives, friends, and pastors who might question the idea of homeschooling or your ability to homeschool. Sometimes fathers need to defend their homeschooling among those at work; having a great standardized test score may put their questions to rest.

Even if your state does not require tests, they are often helpful educational tools. Standardized tests not only serve to document achievement, but also to show areas in which a student might have a weakness. It is especially helpful to compare test results year by year to see how a student has progressed in each subject area.

Look on the Home School Legal Defense Association website at www.hslda.org to read the regulations for homeschooling families in your state. Besides the regulations, you can find all kinds of interesting information about homeschooling in your state, such as state and local support group organizations.

8. When should I give the standardized test? How do I know if my child is ready?

The standardized tests are geared for children to take in the spring, usually in late March or April.

While most of the tests still ask for objective correct answers, some are now focusing on process. So make sure your child understands those process-type questions. Seton offers practices tests for grades 1 – 12. Check the Seton website for a variety of these practice tests.

We offer the standardized CAT at no additional cost to enrolled families. We have other tests available, such as the Iowa and the Terra Nova. Because these tests cost Seton more to provide, they are not free to enrolled families. To see all the options available, please go to the website www.setontesting.com.

9. I am not sure my son will be able to complete all the work by June.

He does not necessarily need to do all the work. What he does need to do is learn the lessons or concepts. Most people learn more quickly or easily in some subjects than others. If he is a great speller or learns the vocabulary words quickly and easily, perhaps he can do two lessons a week rath- er than only one lesson a week. If he easily remembers what he reads in the science or history book, perhaps he can skip some of the written assignments, or do them orally, and take the chapter test early. For more individualized suggestions, you might want to contact one of our counselors.

Be sure to have him take the time for the English, reading, math, and religion as- signments. You want to be sure these areas which “build” each year are well learned. These are the areas which demand the most thinking and analysis skills.

10. Are boys harder to teach?

Not really, you just need to understand the way they learn. Your husband is likely a great teacher for your boys; they will usually learn the way he learns. They have the same genes. Dads are often great teachers, but sometimes they don’t get much of a chance because they are out working. If your husband is out of work or working only part-time, ask him to take over a course or two for your boys. Boys love their dads to teach them.

If you are fortunate enough to have your husband working, think about asking him to teach a class or two on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Especially if your husband does not have a lot of time for family activities, the kids may love spending this time with dad.

From teaching my own seven boys at home, one important thing I learned is to keep them moving! For some reason, they learn better if they can move around while learning. Have them stand at a whiteboard and work out their math problems or diagram sentences. They love to answer questions orally, recite spelling words or catechism answers even while jumping rope! Have you ever read walking around? Boys do. After a necessary sit-down session, give them a housework type of job: go upstairs and collect the dirty laundry, go downstairs and put the laundry in the dryer, jump rope for five minutes, and so on.

And pray a lot, together!

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About Dr. Mary Kay Clark

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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