Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

I am New to Homeschooling: Should I Plan out the Whole Year Ahead of Time?

1. Why does Seton emphasize English while other schools, even Catholic ones, put much less emphasis on English?

Catholic schools traditionally have been strong in English courses to promote thinking and writing skills. Daily diagramming was almost as much evidence of a Catholic school as the Baltimore Catechism! Students in Catholic schools were always at the blackboard competing with diagramming long and complex sentences. There are still diagramming competitions, and some teachers have discovered how much students like them. Some diagramming competitions are on the internet. If you go on the internet at Diagramming Sentences, you can read this:

“When Joseph R. Mallon Jr. bumps up against a complex problem, he thinks back to a lesson he learned in high school from the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. The Philadelphia-area school’s Catholic nuns taught him the art of diagramming a sentence. Once all the parts of speech lined up, Mallon pulled clarity from the chaos. It’s a process he uses today to tackle tough issues as chief executive and chairman of Measurement Specialties Inc. ‘Sit down quietly. Take (the issue) apart into its component parts. Make sure all the components fit together well. They’ve got to be well chosen, fit together and make sense. There are few (business) problems that can’t be solved that way, as dire as it might seem,’ Mallon said. ‘Sentence diagramming is one of the best analytical techniques I ever learned.’”

We emphasize language skills because these skills are so important to understanding the world, and to being able to influence the world.  So many schools are not teaching language skills—such as critical reading and persuasive writing—that students with these skills will have a tremendous advantage in college and later in life.  At Seton, we want to produce not only spiritually-grounded students, but also students who can share and defend their beliefs in the public arena.

2. We have recently received some emails from Seton about accreditation.  Why is accreditation so important?

Accreditation is very important because it shows that Seton has been evaluated by a third party and found to be complying with generally accepted business and educational standards, and is fulfilling the promises that we make to parents and students.

Accreditation has some additional benefits to students as well.  For example, some states offer certain exemptions from home schooling regulations for students enrolled in an accredited school.  Some state university systems have special regulations which apply to home schooled students, but are waived if the student graduated from an accredited school.  When a transcript is sent to a college from an accredited school, such as Seton, the college knows that the reputation of the school stands behind the transcript.

Another benefit of accreditation is the ability to transfer credits more easily.  When Seton sends a transcript to another school, we prominently feature our accreditation on the transcript.  This makes it difficult for a school to deny transferring credits, since often the new school is accredited by the same agency that accredits Seton.

It can be important to families to be able to explain to family and friends that their students attend an accredited school that maintains high educational standards.

We believe that Seton’s accreditation is good for all homeschoolers, even those who do not enroll with Seton.  Seton’s accreditation is a public acknowledgment that home schooling is an acceptable form of education, which has been evaluated and approved by the same agencies which evaluate and approve traditional schools.

While we are accredited by AdvancEd and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, as well as recognized by the Virginia Council for Private Education, none of these organizations has ever questioned our Catholic curriculum. Their primary concern is more of a business approach: Does the school fulfill its commitments to the enrolled families? They want to see that we are continually working to keep up with technology and being sure our “employees” are keeping up with developments in their work areas. They want to survey our parents as well to determine if parents are satisfied with our services.

Parents and students are an extremely important part of the continuing accreditation process, and we very much appreciate your help and cooperation.

3. I am new to homeschooling. Should I plan out the whole year ahead of time?

The Seton lesson plans are arranged so the lessons are scheduled out for thirty-six weeks, based on what we anticipate as the average work a student could do for each day. However, we believe that the parents need to make the final determination about how much a certain student can do in a reasonable amount of time. What you will discover is that your student moves quickly through some subjects, and slowly through some others. That is where you can make adjustments, giving more time to a class period when it is needed, and less time when it is not needed.

For example, some students know their spelling words after one time through the first part of the lesson. You might consider having your student do some of the other exercises during the week, which you know is really just reinforcement, or, as some of us believe, the spelling sentences often teach about other things as well, such as information about saints or history.

On the other hand, if your great spelling student is struggling with a new math concept, cut down on the spelling time and use it for math time. This is why home schooling is so great, and works best for the student. The lessons are geared for the individual student, not for 30 children sitting in a classroom working on certain lessons that a publisher or an educator designed for a classroom teacher. The teacher does not always have the choice to slow down for her class, or take the time to help a particular student who needs more help.

We always say, “Adjust the program to fit the student, not the student to fit the program.”  The lesson plans are meant as a guide.  They are your servant, not your master.

4. How much do I need to “record” the lessons I teach my children?

The answer to this question depends on your state laws and what you as a parent want.  In some states, parents can comply with certain laws by submitting a “portfolio” of student work.  If you plan to keep a portfolio, then recording more is probably better.

For purposes of showing your student’s progress, you probably don’t need to save more than the specific assignments listed on the quarter report forms.  If a quarter report form lists only weekly parent grades, you might want to save an item or two as representative of the work done.  If you upload any work over the Internet to Seton, or if you take an online test, Seton keeps a copy of the test or assignment.  As long as your family is enrolled with Seton, you will have access to your MySeton page, and you will always be able to view these items.

If you want to save a copy of an item which is not sent to Seton, you may want to scan the item and upload it to one of the many free online storage sites.  By uploading a scanned item to an online site, you can be sure to have access to it even if your computer crashes or you get a new computer.  There are many free online storage sites available, such as Box.Net and Microsoft SkyDrive.

5. Why can’t I choose the books for my children for their book reports?

While we strongly encourage you to choose books for your children to read and to assign them to write book reports, our graders cannot read every book a parent may choose, and consequently cannot grade reports on such books. We require only four book reports a year in the elementary grade levels, and for the first two reports, we give the student introductory sentences to get them started. The second two reports are on stories of saints which we send, so our graders are familiar with those stories. Nevertheless, we do hope that parents will encourage their children to read and write about other books.

6. My daughter has not quite finished up 8th grade, but she wants to move along to start 9th grade. What do you think?

We recommend that your daughter finish up her 8th grade work. This will generally make her better prepared for high school and make her more successful in high school.

If your daughter is struggling with certain subjects, have her finish up the easiest one first, then the second easiest, and so on. If her most difficult subject is last, she has behind her several successes and is likely to have a better attitude toward finishing the last. If you cannot help her with her most difficult course, consider having a tutor come by to help her finish up. There may be a retired teacher at your church who would consider helping your daughter.

7. I would like to enroll my second grader for the full program, but what would happen if I choose not to give tests for some subjects?

It is entirely optional for parents to give Seton tests.  However, you need to be aware that if you do not give tests, we cannot put a grade on the Seton report card. In second grade, that is not particularly important since there is no issue with course credits.  However, in the later grades, it may become more important for your son to show progress in all subject areas.  If, for any reason, you need to produce documentation of your home schooling, grades earned from an accredited school are very useful.

Certainly, in the high school years, you will want a complete transcript for when your student applies to college. Even though Seton tests and grading are still optional in high school, we very strongly recommend using our grading and record-keeping services.

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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