Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Your Questions… Answered

May we mail in just some of the subjects which my 5th grader has finished, or do I need to wait until the tests for all the subjects have been taken?

If you are mailing in the tests, we suggest that you send the tests for all the subjects for the quarter at the same time. Sending all the tests at once allows you to check off every item for the quarter and make sure you have everything together. That tends to be easier and saves on mailing costs both for your family and for Seton.

However, if you have a concern that a particular concept has not been learned properly and you want to have feedback sooner, feel free to mail the tests in as they are done. This is sometimes a good idea for courses such as Algebra, in which the concepts build upon themselves week by week. If your child does poorly on the Algebra home tests, you don’t want to wait a full quarter before sending in the Seton-graded tests.

Of course, the quickest and easiest way to get grades is to use the electronic grading, either by uploading assignments or taking tests online.

How does the computer process the quarterly tests?

The process is not the same for all tests. Objective tests are immediately graded by the computer, while subjective tests are graded by a person using the computer. If you send your test papers over the Internet, the computer does much of the processing, such as recording the student’s name, the date, and the specific test which saves a considerable amount of time and money, and gives you more information online. In addition, the tests are graded more quickly, and graded tests are returned instantly. Plus, a copy of the test or assignment is kept on the Seton data servers, meaning that you can go back and review all those items at a later date without worrying about misplacing anything.

By sending the tests over the Internet to the Seton website, any problems which might be of concern or might be developing can be found more quickly.

Can you give me a specific amount of time that my 7th grader should spend on each subject?

In several subject areas, we have given a suggested amount of time, based on what the schools are doing as well as what we believe is reasonable in the homeschooling situation. In a classroom, a teacher must be strict about the time frames for each subject to be sure everything is covered. However, what often happens is that the better students in some subjects tend to read a book or occupy themselves while the rest of the class is still doing the lesson. The students who are struggling are often frustrated when the teacher must move on to the next subject before these students have mastered the concept.

In homeschooling, while we give general time amounts, those times should be adjusted to the student’s abilities in each subject. It is important to pray about this, and seriously evaluate your student’s abilities. One student in 7th grade might be able to finish the math assignment in half an hour, but needs 45 minutes to write a single paragraph. A huge advantage in homeschooling is making adjustments for each child to be successful without being frustrated because he is too slow or too fast for the classroom schedule. The goal is always learning, not simply completing assignments.

My son is behind in his high school work. what can I do to help him believe he can finish his work in a timely manner?

Many parents choose homeschooling for a student who has been sick, or who has “fallen behind” due to taking care of sick parents or grandparents, or because of family disruptions. Whatever the reason, many high school homeschooling students need to be reassured that they can be successful quickly.

This can be done by changing the schedule considerably. These students need uplifting quickly. They cannot start in September, and they see this long road ahead of them, to do five or six subjects and have them finished in June when their friends have already graduated from high school.

We recommend that older students in high school take one course at a time, doing it all day every day, until it is finished. Older students usually can move faster, and secondly, they can focus on only one subject for maybe five or six weeks, and have the course finished.

A second option would be to take one course a half day, and a second course a half day. Focusing on only two courses each day, and barring major outside distractions, older students are likely to finish these two courses in eight weeks.

There are a couple of considerations, however. Obviously, in the area of math and foreign languages, the student would need to take the second year course of the math or foreign language immediately after the first is finished. A student cannot finish Spanish One in two or three months, and then a year later, take the second year Spanish. The second year course would need to immediately follow the first year course.

Older students who follow this schedule, by the way, tend to do very well in their courses. When they receive a grade, usually a good grade, every six to eight weeks, they are energized to continue to the next course.

My son filled in the book report outline, but he seems to need more help. How much help am I expected to give him?

First, do your best to read, or skim-read the book yourself so you can give your son some direction. Keep in mind questions you want to ask your son to lead him to find the answers himself. For instance, if he is supposed to think of certain characteristics of the main character, have a conversation with your son, asking him what the character did and said in the story. What kind of person do these actions and statements show?

When you are helping your child with a math problem, for instance a multiplication problem, take him through it step by step. “What do you do first? What do you think about first? What is the second step in a multiplication problem? So then what are you adding?”

In the same way, ask your son to think about what the character did and said, and how he reacted in situations. Have him write down, briefly, in a few words, what he thinks are important statements or acts which show what kind of person the character is. These notes would be the basis for starting an outline.

Most students just want to write out something without thinking, without taking notes, without outlining, without organizing. That is the main problem. As a parent, you need to show him the process of thinking and outlining before he starts writing.

Can we write our own topic sentences for my children for the book reports?

We wish we could answer yes, but our graders cannot grade reports on different topics. They are familiar with all the books, of course, but since most grade levels have a selection of books, it would be difficult for our graders to take the time to re-read a book to become familiar enough with it to grade on different topics which students choose.

We certainly encourage you to inspire your child to write an additional report on the additional topic, for which you can give a grade or a special reward. Any further experience in writing or in composition can be very valuable for future analytical and thinking skills for all subjects.

Don’t forget that on the Seton website, we have chapter notes for almost all the books for grade levels four through twelve. These can be found on your family’s My Seton page. Simply click on Resources for the Reading courses, or click on All Resources for your student’s grade level.

Will you be putting all the high school courses online?

We don’t want Seton to become an online school. We feel that homeschooling is mainly about home and family values, about relationships between parents and children, relationships among the children, children caring for each other and for the family as a whole. Catholic homeschooling is about learning our Faith and living the Catholic life. Secondarily, it is about reading, writing, and arithmetic. We don’t want a situation whereby students are looking at the computer for their studies and not learning with their parents.

Jesus came as a Person to teach us to care about each other, and to care about living the Godly lifestyle. While the writers of the Bible were inspired by God to write what they were told to write, the apostles and disciples were told to “go out and teach.” Jesus meant for His Word to be spread from person to person and, most importantly, from parents to children.

That is not to say that we will not have any online courses. There will likely be three or four online science courses at the high school level. The “textbook” or lessons will be online. The “textbook” will include embedded images and videos which can show scientific topics better than any textbook. An online course can be constantly updated, which is important in the area of Biology, Life Science, and Earth Science.

We are doing these in the area of science for 9th and 10 graders, primarily because we want Catholic courses in these areas, much of which in the secular arena has been conformed to the politically-correct agenda.

In Virginia, the state education board has declared that all students graduating in four years must have taken at least one online high school course for the purpose of preparing them for taking college online courses, which are becoming very common.

Textbooks will still be available. In addition, we hope to provide supplemental tutorial videos by teachers, as we now have in the areas of English and Spanish.

The 10th and 11th high school science courses have optional CDs in conjunction with their textbook to help the students learn the material. The math textbooks in the high school levels also have optional CDs to teach every lesson.

My high school son really likes the online supplemental videos for the English courses. will you be doing similar videos for other courses?

Yes. We started the English online supplemental videos because we often receive the same questions from several students. While we try to answer these questions in the Course Manual, the questions still come. Therefore, the videos are focusing on answering those most-frequently-asked questions.

However, we have plans to do special videos on special topics. We plan to do a series on the American Literature course, with special emphasis on American history and its relation to the literature selections. We plan a Shakespeare video and a video to explain the value of the online chapter notes for the high school courses. We plan a video on what colleges expect students to know when they enter college. We have done a video on “Juggling Your Time” for high school students. The beginning videos for Spanish I are already available. The computer programming course has a series of 36 videos which go over most of the topics covered by the course.

We should emphasize that these videos are not meant to be more than supplemental. They will not replace the courses. They usually take about 15 or 20 minutes each.

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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