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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Your Questions… Answered

How important is it that I stay on the Seton schedule?

The Seton lesson plans set a schedule based on what we believe is realistic for the student to accomplish each day. In addition, the schedule is planned so that the student finishes the course in about nine months. However, a great advantage in homeschooling is for the parent to adjust the schedule according to the abilities of the individual child. If a child can do two days of math assignments in one day, let him do it. On the other hand, the same child may need to take two days to do one assignment in English.

You may want to write dates or times next to the lessons in the course manual, or you may want to write abbreviated assignments in the Lesson Planner. Seton also provides adjustable lesson plans available for parents on the Seton website.

Keep in mind, however, that while assignments should be adjusted for the individual student’s abilities, sometimes lessons are not being done in a timely manner to make way for social or sports activities. It may be important for children to have some of these activities, but when students reach high school, they may be very unhappy that they have fallen behind in their learning skills. You and your children should stay in daily prayer so that you are making the best decisions for each subject for each day.

What is the best way to prepare my high school, or junior high student, to take a test?

Long ago, the young nuns encouraged us to pray together for remembering our lessons and doing well on our tests. They often told us stories about a saint with an experience related to our present situation. We always wrote a J.M.J. at the top of our papers and tests as a constant reminder that we wanted Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to help us remember our studies. Teaching your students to pray about everything important, including their school assignments and tests, is essential.

For most courses, simply studying the material should be sufficient. For the upper grades, parents should look over the test and emphasize to the student what should be studied while not giving the specific questions. Teachers do this all the time in the classroom: “Be sure you understand the reasons for the Industrial Revolution.” “Make sure you understand the difference between a proper noun and a common noun.” “Be sure you can diagram adverbial and adjectival phrases.” With such advice, the student is not being given the sentences to diagram, but realizes he needs to review those two kinds of phrases.

In some subjects, like history and science, encourage your student to make an outline of the chapter, which should be done as your student reads and studies the chapter. You might look over the outline to make sure the important points are included. You might need to add that your child needs to memorize some of the definitions. You might tell your student that he should know the various sections of the inner parts of the Earth.

In most cases, if the student has highlighted the chapter, make an outline, and studied the various definitions, dates, and people, he should do well on the tests. For high school students, highlighting and outlining are essential for good grades as well as preparing for college.

How do I teach my student to recognize important points to underline or do an outline of important points?

Most textbooks have either Section Reviews or Chapter Reviews. These review questions show clearly what are the important points to remember in a section or chapter. The student should underline these words or phrases as a notation to study these. It is a good idea for the student to actually write out or copy the words and phrases for the answers to the Review questions, thereby helping the brain to keep these in memory. The student should read the whole chapter aloud, at least twice, which also helps the brain to keep the ideas in memory.

How do I motivate my students to stay on schedule?

The best way to motivate students to stay on schedule, at least the schedule you set for them, is to require the student to finish up the week’s work on Saturday. This needs to be enforced, meaning the student cannot go to a scheduled sports activity or whatever is scheduled for Saturday. You will find that if you do this just one time, the student realizes you are serious and will carry out the “decree” in spite of objections!

This procedure also holds true for disobedience. In other words, if you tell your son to stop teasing his little sister, and he continues, you must give the punishment you previously stated. The punishment must be immediate, at that very moment if possible, (not on the following Saturday or Sunday) and must be enforced. It could be going without dessert or not going to the football game that afternoon. The reason most children are disobedient these days is that there is no “enforcement,” that is, threatened consequences never happen.

We are in a rural area and my children miss having interaction with other children.

Some homeschooling moms in this situation start a small group for homeschooled children. In a rural area, there might be only one or two other families, but even so, there could be some every-other-week activity. It could be something like science projects to do together, or art projects in anticipation of Christmas or Easter. It could be a field trip to a local orchard or dairy farm.

I would like to use a different science book or obtain books from the library. Do I need to teach the same subjects as are in the Seton science book?

In general, yes. The states have set up the science courses in the schools so that the years alternate between the living sciences and the non-living sciences. So if you don’t want to use our 8th grade Life Science book, we still suggest you teach Life Science in grade 8. The high school would expect that.

If you like another science book better than ours, you certainly can use any book you want, but for a grade on the Seton report card, your student needs to take the Seton tests.

While we have accepted other Catholic or Christian science books as alternatives for science, this would not be true in all subjects. Our books are Catholic because we have a definite perspective. We have the agenda as outlined in Vatican documents very clearly, that the entire curriculum is supposed to be Catholic. On the Seton website, under the Seton Mission, we quote extensively from Church documents that emphasize the importance of a Catholic curriculum. The following is one paragraph from the catechism:

“For the mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, and its teachers, syllabus and text-books in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that Religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth’s entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well. To use the words of Leo XIII: ‘It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.’” (80)

Why should it be important to have my children enrolled in an accredited school?

Many public school officials are not happy that some children are not in their schools. After all, federal and state funding is based on the number of enrollments. Having your children enrolled in an accredited school, especially one recognized by other educational agencies and state departments of education, lessens the potential of having school district attempts to pressure families. Our accreditation comes from a national and international or trans-regional association. We have been blessed that the accreditation people have been friendly, though demanding of paperwork and showing continued progress.

If you look on our website at, and click on the drop-down menu for About Seton, and scroll down to Accreditation, you can read more about what accreditation means. Notice that the accreditation agency does not tell us what to teach in our curriculum, but rather that we do teach the usual courses for students to be able to enter college. Colleges are very interested in having students come from accredited high schools.

What is your opinion regarding our freedom to homeschool under the current administration?

Right now, the freedom of parents to teach their own children is supported by the Supreme Court. State laws have varying regulations, but so far, parents have been fairly free in teaching their children at home. There certainly are dangers looming with this administration, but we need to stay in constant prayer, along with our children. Because we are accredited by a national association, we likely have a better “position” than an unaccredited school.

My son turned nineteen, and has fallen behind in his studies due to some serious family problems. Do you have some sort of fast track so he can get a diploma and start college?

In spite of family problems, an education still means an education. Students will not be successful in college if they do not have a good high school education. To “fast track” high school will result in a “fast track” of dismissal from college. Perhaps a college would keep a failing student to keep tuition coming in, but the ability to learn more than in a high school, is not likely.

My parents don’t live in the area, but I miss having their help and support. Do you have any suggestions?

There are a surprising number of older women who are not working but would like to be helpful to someone in some way. The best way to find good Catholic older women is through your parish or nearby parishes. Many church bulletins list the names of people active in the parish, who likely know other women who might be interested in helping you with the teaching or perhaps even babysitting or helping with light house chores. Most of them probably do not want any pay, but you might offer something anyway. If you have very young children, just having some- one come in twice a week to help with the chores would be a blessing.

Keep in mind that your children can start helping around the house even at the age of three. They can sort the laundry, put away their own clothes in the right drawer, make their own bed (with a simple comforter), put away their own toys in their own toy box, throw away broken toys, set the table, clear the table, sweep, dust, pick books up off the floor, and so on and so on.

I am reluctant to have a computer available to the children. My husband says they need to learn to use it.

Your husband is right that, today, children need to learn to use the computer, but you need to determine when is the best age for them to start using it. First, there needs to be some control, having the computer in a room such as the kitchen or dining room, a room where you and your husband can observe what is on the screen. Second, your children need to be old enough so that you can trust them to be obedient. Third, because things sometimes jump onto the screen which are unacceptable, you cannot start the children before they reach their teen years, being sure you have mature teens.

You can order educational game disks for the children to use on the computer, so they have the advantage of learning on the computer as well as learning how computers work. The Catholic encyclopedia is available on a disk as well as catechism lessons.

Seton sells a number of educational computer disks. We have stories of saints, science projects, and math tutoring disks, just to name a few.

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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