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Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Your Questions… Answered

I have been homeschooling for a couple of years, but I think that we could accomplish more with a better schedule and routine. What do you suggest?

The trick to accomplishing anything is first, to stay in prayer, and second, to be organized by following a daily schedule. Set up a schedule for what you want to do, including Mass and the daily family Rosary, and then do your best to stick to your schedule. Train your children to follow their daily plan; put it on the wall next to their desk or chair. The schedule can include the school assignments and the chores. There are always going to be times when things come up which require your immediate attention, but the children should keep going with their assignments.

Work with your students to set up a schedule indicating each subject and the time and post it up on a wall. When the subject is finished and well-done, draw a happy face or paste a sticker on the assignment sheet.

Consider scheduling chores between classes to give the children some activity throughout the day. Reward your children with a certain amount of play time at lunch for completion of morning assignments. For the afternoon, school time can stop when assignments are completed.

Carefully consider your out-of-home activities. Some families spend so much time at outside activities, the schoolwork simply does not get done.

If the weekly assignments are not completed, consider having your children spend their Saturday finishing up incomplete assignments. With that policy, you will be surprised how efficient your children become. Be sure you enforce the policy so your children will believe you and tend to their assignments.

It is a basic truth of economics that incentives and disincentives make a large difference in society. They can also make a large difference with homeschooling. Look at what the incentives and disincentives are in your home and see if you can make any changes for the better.

My sons struggle with the book reports during the year, and I am thinking of having them do reports early in the year. What do you recommend for beginning steps?

You may want to schedule the reading and the writing of the book report either the first week of each quarter or take a week from the other assignments between each quarter. Help the student to understand the assigned questions or topics, then assign the student to read the book, while highlighting or making notes in the book in relation to the topic. By the end of the week, have your student write the report. The following week, have your student go back to regular daily assignments.

Don’t forget that we have all kinds of helps for you and your students for writing book reports. On your MySeton page, click on Resources or Scroll down to Reading Resources. You can find not only chapter notes on the assigned books, but also you can find Book Report Worksheets. There are several pages for your student to fill in basic information. By the time your student has finished reading the book and filling in the information on the Worksheets, he has all the information to start writing his report.

My 3rd grade son has done so well on the tests, getting almost perfect scores every time. I would like him to skip a grade and move into 4th grade.

We never suggest skipping a grade level because textbooks are written with increments built in. When a student omits using textbooks for a grade level, we can almost guarantee problems will show up later.

We encourage parents to enroll a bright student in the usual grade level, but the student can proceed at his own rate, going through the lessons as quickly as he can do them while maintaining excellent grades. In the area of math, a student may not need to do every problem, but the student should at least do the end-of-chapter review problems. When the student starts slowing down or missing problems in the chapter reviews, then the parent can start the student doing the lessons in the following chapters.

Sometimes parents tell us their student can spell all the words in the speller. That may be true, but the spelling books try to show spelling patterns among a group of words so that the student can apply them later with an unfamiliar word. In addition, our Seton spellers try to teach definitions and the use of the spelling words in sentences.

Perhaps a student knows almost all the vocabulary words in the Seton vocabulary book. However, we include exercises in analysis skills on the second page, and, on the third page is an exercise using words appropriately in sentences and which often teach a Catholic concept.

Our conclusion is that it is best to enroll your student in the normal grade level, but proceed through the courses at the rate which is best for him. He can always move into a higher grade level for each subject as he finishes each course.

We are new to homeschooling, and the materials we have received are a little overwhelming. How can I reassure my children?

First off, please remember that you and your student have a whole year to go through the lessons. You just need to start progressing, step by step. Eventually, steps add up, and you’ve gone a long way. Help your students to do the lessons, subject by subject, at the pace that is best for each child. Fit the lessons to the child, not the child to the lessons. That is what homeschooling is all about.

For now, show each child the lesson plans for one day in each subject. If they can see that one assignment for one day is not so much, they won’t be overwhelmed.

If one of your children says it is too much work, you should say to the student, “Let’s look at today’s assignments and see exactly what is being assigned.” The key is making slow and steady progress, and not stopping for long periods of time.

If a student is trying to make up work he has not done in a long time, it can be overwhelming, like the laundry would be overwhelming if it were not done for several weeks. But if the assignments are done each day, with the extra being done on a Saturday morning if necessary, the children will learn that it is easier to do each lesson each day rather than ignoring the assignments for long periods of time.

This is my first year of home schooling, and I am a little nervous.

The first thing to remember is that you need to stay in daily prayer, and remember that you are doing the right thing, the best thing for the upbringing of your children. You are protecting your children from the secular culture and you are going to influence your children positively by spending time with them each and every day. You are going to train them how to live the Catholic life, how to pray, how to be kind and generous to each other, even showing the older children how to help teach the younger children.

Be sure to start your day with prayer and say the Rosary every day with your family. Remind them of the examples of holy children, such as the three children of Fatima.

You are going to teach obedience and respect, as well as self-discipline and organizational skills. You are going to teach them how to work together as a family, and how to accomplish things together as a family. You are going to teach your children how to share and how to care about each other. And in between those important lessons, you can teach some math and reading and English.

Be sure to start your day with prayer. Go to Mass every day if you possibly can. Say the Rosary every day with your family. Have a Family Altar and a May Crowning. Keep holy pictures around the house, and a statue of the Sacred Heart. You have been given the gifts from God at the Sacrament of Matrimony to fulfill the duties of the married state, one of which is to train your children to be good Catholics. They will not just be good Catholics, but also educated Catholics who can be leaders in the future and bring our society back to Christian values.

My second-grade son wants me to sit with him for all his lessons. Is that a good idea?

This is not unusual for younger children, but it is usually not possible to give complete attention to each child, especially when several children are involved. Plus, you have other concerns as well, such as keeping the house and family going. You might want to schedule time during the day that will just be for him, so that he knows when it is “his time”. At other times during the day, you might consider asking an older sibling to help your son, such as listening to him read.

Of course, students need to learn eventually to work on their own. One of the most important lessons for homeschoolers is learning to self-motivate and work independently. These skills will help your son throughout his education and throughout his life.

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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