Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Your Questions… Answered

The National Assessment Governing Board reported that only 24 percent of America’s 8th and 12th graders have “solid writing skills.” What can we parents do to help our children improve their writing skills. Is the computer helping or hindering?

It is important for our children to be writing every day. Seton includes several paragraph writing assignments within each English quarter, some almost weekly. At least one book report or book analysis is written each quarter. Beyond this items, writing skills can improve if whole sentences are written instead of one-word answers for the usual questions at the end of a chapter (for history and science especially) as well as for the reading assignments.

It is important that parents look over written work and evaluate writing skills, especially before sending it to Seton for grading. If you have a friend or relative who is an English teacher, or an especially good writer, you may ask that person to look over your child’s written work. While Seton is evaluating writing assignments quarterly, someone you know may be able to help more quickly.

Overall, the computer helps most students in the area of creative writing or writing skills. It corrects spelling and some grammar and helps students to be more efficient in writing, which encourages students to improve. Being able to make corrections or improvements in sentences and paragraphs, easily moving around sentences and paragraphs, being able to insert a more accurate or precise word or phrase, are all help students improve the final product. Like it or not, students at the fourth or fifth grade and even older, are not likely to improve their composition if they must rewrite the whole assignment.

Is it okay for me to look over the tests and book reports, and make suggestions, before sending them to Seton?

We encourage parents to look over their student’s work before sending it to Seton for grading. Many times, mistakes are from being careless, such as omitting answers to questions on the back page of the test. When that happens we must either give a low grade or an Incomplete.

Parents should go over the test with the student, reading aloud or having the student read aloud the answers. That alerts the student that he must make a correction. It is especially important to read aloud any paragraphs or compositions, for both grade school and high school students. Parents can point out that sometimes questions are not being answered with specific details. Parents can say “That does not sound like the correct answer to me. Go back and review the chapter and correct your answer.” With this approach, you are not giving your student the answer, but you are encouraging him to review and learn the material. Your goal and Seton’s goal is for the children to learn, not to send in work just to record a grade. Seton parents care about their children’s education. Eventually, the children realize this, and also begin to put in the extra effort.

Why do you have so many books at the elementary grade levels?

It may seem overwhelming when the box arrives, but remember that your student has a full year to do the lessons in all the subjects. You might want to look at our online video “Opening the Box.” (You can access this through your MySeton page at www.setonhome.org/myseton. Simply log on with your family number and click on your student’s name in the upper right-hand corner, then click on Resources, then click on Videos, then click on Opening the Box.) This presentation reviews all the books and materials you received in your box and gives you an overview about how they will be used in the next year. Notice that while you have received two Readers, one is for the first half of the year, the other for the second half. While you have received two reading workbooks, each is done for only one-half of the year. Only one of the four books for the book reports is assigned to be read for each quarter of the year.

Take a thorough look at your Course Manual of daily lesson plans. You should see that we follow a daily pattern of assignments that are fairly close in line with the Catholic schools daily schedule. If you look at what the student is asked to do each day, it should not be overwhelming. The main thing is to make and keep to a schedule which will allow you and your student to reach your educational goals for the year.

If you are having problems, you may phone one of our academic counselors who can give you some ideas of how to accomplish your homeschooling more efficiently.

May I combine some classes to make it easier for me to teach two children at one time?

We encourage you to do this whenever possible. In some subjects, such as science, history, and religion (as well as art and music), this can be done in both the elementary and high school levels. However, in the elementary levels, it usually works when students are in adjacent grade levels. If you want to combine another subject, such as math, spelling, or vocabulary, it would be worth your time to have the younger student take the next grade level over the previous summer to be able to join the older sibling the following school year.

An advantage to having two children taking the same course is that they can take turns answering questions, reading paragraphs in their reader, quizzing each other for spelling words and vocabulary words. Be careful, though, that the children work independently, maybe in different rooms, when they take their tests. We have seen some siblings’ tests which are exact duplicates (in misspelling and incorrect punctuation, as well as answers).

If you decide to combine classes, call our Admissions Department at 866-280-1930. If you want to discuss the issue first, call our Academic Counselors. For elementary counselors, call Sharon Hassett (Ext. 118) or Carin Delancy (Ext. 120). For high school, call Gene McGuirk (Ext. 117).

My son in sixth grade says he can do all the problems in his math book, and wants a seventh grade math book.

Tell your son that he needs to show you that he can do the problems correctly in his sixth grade book. Start out by asking him to do the at-home chapter tests so you can check his answers. If they are correct, then give him the chapter test to send to Seton. If his grade is in the 90s or 100, then have him take the next at-home chapter test, and the next chapter test to send to Seton. Do this for the whole book, if he can. If not, it may be that he can start with the daily lessons perhaps half-way or three-fourths through the book. If he is successful with very good grades for the whole grade level, then contact our Admissions Department so we can ship the next grade level math book, lessons, and tests.

Math is one subject you don’t want your student to advance in too rapidly because what has been learned in the past must be learned well, to the point where the student can give the correct answer almost automatically, for him to be successful with lessons and tests in the future. While some students can progress quickly in the lower grades, some higher thinking skills are needed when they reach seventh and eighth grades; another jump in higher thinking skills is needed in high school. It is better to learn slowly with complete understanding in the lower levels than to struggle in the upper levels.

My high school son cannot seem to get his work done in a day.

We recently made a video for high school students called Juggling Your Time. One problem with adolescence is that it causes young people to want to sleep longer in the morning. Once your student reaches high school, you need to remind him that he is now a Young Adult. That means he is an adult, even though he is a young one. He needs to change his lifestyle to a more adult lifestyle.

Homeschool students often look with pity on the public school student who must get up at 6:30 every morning to be ready to catch a 7:30 bus to school. However, there is an upside to needing to get up early: the student is up!

Since homeschooling students don’t have a bus to catch, their days can sometimes dribble away without being productive. Structure and routine are necessary. If the bus doesn’t enforce a routine, then the routine may need to be self-enforced. A 7:00 or 7:30 wake-up time is a good idea, because most people are more productive in the early hours of the day. Changing out of pajamas and into “school” clothes is also a good way to tell the mind that it’s time to start being productive. If possible, try to have students do a few quick exercises, grab a glass of juice, and start into the first subject even before breakfast.

Some parents have told us that an early daily Mass, far from taking away from the schooling routine, actually works at enforce it. Needing to get up for early Mass means that the day has begun and something useful can be accomplished.

A schedule is vitally important, but just like every else in homeschooling, the schedule should be adjusted to the educational needs of the student. For instance, some students like the “regular school” schedule, doing an hour or so of work for each subject each day, with additional reading in the evening. Some students like to take more time to focus on an individual subject; these students study and take the tests for one subject all morning and a second subject all afternoon. They are able to complete the two courses and have final grades recorded for two subjects in a few months. Then they take two more courses in the next three months, and two more in the final three months.

My fifth grader, a bright student, keeps saying, “I can do it myself.” Should I let her?

We have had mothers tell us that when they allow a child, even in high school, to “be on her own,” they have regretted it by spring when they realize the student did not keep up with the work. Children, even high school students, are not old enough to do their schoolwork on their own without any parental oversight. That is the truth based on past unhappy experiences from our Seton parents.

However, self-motivation and self-direction are important habits and skills that will help a child throughout life. You do not want to discourage a truly motivated child. It takes wisdom to discern exactly what a child can do, and when a child needs help.

God has given us parents not only the right but also the responsibility to teach our children. That responsibility means that children need to accept their parents’ leadership in directing, observing, and overseeing for accountability.

My last child graduated from Seton and is now in college. After all these years, I want to help other homeschooling families. Do you think this is wise?

This could be a wonderful apostolate for you and a blessing for a younger homeschooling family. Very few experienced Catholic homeschooling mothers are available to help young families. We certainly encourage you to help out with maybe a couple of afternoons a week with English, reading, or math. We have had some single mothers call who want to homeschool but cannot find help, or moms who are ill, or whose high school child is home alone. Many moms need help desperately. Contact any homeschooling family in your area and see who needs your help the most. There surely is a special place in Heaven for someone like you.

My husband is willing to let me homeschool, but he is not enthusiastic.

This is a tough situation. Some mothers make sure all the books, pencils, notes, papers, whatever, are out of sight and put in cupboards or in the children’s bedroom bookcases when Dad comes home, just so there is no dissension. What you especially do not want is for your husband to make any derogatory comments to the children about their education, since this may make the children pit the two of you against each other. A prophecy of failure in homeschooling can become self-fulfilling if it makes the children believe that their father is against the idea.

What must be hoped and prayed for is that your husband will eventually see the fruits of your homeschooling and will become enthusiastic. Your husband may not like homeschooling, but he loves his children and wants what is best for them. If he can see that homeschooling is helping them to learn, then he may become a real partner in the enterprise.

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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