Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Your Questions… Answered

Because of illness, we are not as far along in our studies as I would like. What tips do you have for us to catch up?

For some subjects, you can use a few shortcuts. For instance, to catch up in Spelling or Vocabulary, you could assign your student two chapters in one week, with the student doing only the essential work. If your student is very good in math, perhaps he could do two chapters in one week by working out only every other problem. You need to be careful that shortcuts should be used only for subjects for which you know your child will not be missing something for which he needs to take the regular length of time.

For many subjects, you could have your child do assignments orally, giving answers either directly to you or recording them for you to review later.

Sometimes it is faster for a student to focus on a couple of subjects and work exclusively on those for a time. For example, a high school student might work exclusively on math in the morning and English in the afternoon for a month. Students tend to move very quickly through courses with this narrow focus.

Remember that the lesson plans are a suggestion, not a command. Although students need to complete the Seton-graded assignments to receive a course grade, the other assignments can be modified and streamlined as necessary.

Can you give me some ideas to help me teach my son to write his book report?

The best way to help your son is to use the Book Report Worksheets which Seton provides as an online supplemental Resource for each elementary grade level. Some students struggle with “Where do I start?” They don’t realize what is important, what should be included in their report. The worksheets encourage the student to think about the major ideas or the major characteristics of the main character in the book.

If your student is in Grade 4, for example, the “Writing a Book Report” worksheet is about 7 pages. On these sheets, the student writes the time the story takes place, where it takes place, who is the main character, and who are the other important characters. They are to list the main topics of the book, as explained on the worksheet.

Explanations and lines are provided for the student to write two main topics as well as a conclusion. The following pages provide an outline and lines for the student to write examples proving or showing the topics. This is followed by pages which show how to write the introductory paragraph to include the three topics. The worksheets provide space for writing the paragraphs. The final pages provide instructions and lines for writing the concluding paragraph.

We will be providing supplemental videos for writing book reports, as well as paragraphs and other compositions.

What should I do to prepare my child for a test?

It depends on the student and the grade level. Most students from 7th grade up don’t need much help at all. However, some students even in high school need some help with preparing for a test.

For younger students, look at the test yourself, be aware of what is expected for your student to know, and review those concepts. For instance, if the English test asks your child to identify the parts of speech, go back and review the relevant lessons.

Simply direct older students by telling them that you have reviewed the test, and warn them they must know how to divide fractions, or be able to identify the main characteristics of the hero. The point is that you are giving a general rather than a specific idea of the questions without actually giving the exact question. (Giving the student a general idea of what is on the test is not cheating; in fact, it is a commonly accepted practice in schools.)

Look over every test before you send it to Seton. We find students skip questions, or mix up questions with the wrong number for the answer. Sometimes words are carelessly left out, or a misspelled word has a different meaning.

Many students are now taking online tests, and the process seems so easy and so comfortable that it can lead to mistakes. Unfortunately, some students do not check their work before sending it to Seton, which can result in a needlessly low grade.

Students need to learn the process: First: study, study, study. Second, answer questions in the textbook in writing, not just in the head. The process of writing out the answer uses the eyes, the ears and the mouth (if they repeat it out loud), and the physical process of handwriting solidifies the answer in the brain.

My son seems to be struggling with his math, but I don’t know why.

The most common problem with students, especially boys, is that they understand the concepts but they are careless in working out the problems. Because they think they know it, they don’t take the time to be careful and accurate. Of course, sometimes they think they understand it, but they don’t fully understand the concept, so they make continuing mistakes in further lessons.

Our math counselors advise that students work all the practice problems and the chapter problems but as they do each problem, they should check the answer. Otherwise, they may pick up a wrong idea or process, and continue it for all the problems. Obviously, if he finds any problem has a wrong answer, he needs to go back and find out if he misunderstood a concept, or was he just careless. With the Saxon Solution Manuals in the upper grades, he can see the procedure explicitly. He then needs to redo the problem completely, from beginning to end, to make sure he understands each step.

The counselors say that this procedure does not overwhelm the student. If he finishes the whole exercise, and has five problems wrong, maybe each with a different “problem,” the student becomes overwhelmed or disheartened. By working each problem and checking each problem, he can focus on, usually, one issue or concept.

The counselors say it is better to do one problem incorrectly and then correct it, rather than practice an incorrect procedure for fifteen or twenty problems, which then needs to be undone! One trick for a bright but careless young student is to provide a small piece of candy, an M & M for instance, for each correct problem! A reward for older students (in 7th through 11th) is to encourage them to finish with a good grade so they can go on to the next grade level immediately after finishing the book. This is a huge incentive for the bright, bored, but careless student.

Seton carries two CD series which provide tutoring lessons for the Saxon textbooks. For any student having problems, these are a terrific help for busy moms and dads. Check our online catalog for both the D.I.V.E. series at $50 each and the SAXON Teacher interactive CD ROMS at $70 each. The first series runs 10 to 20 minutes per lesson, the second runs 20 to 30 minutes.

Our counselors like to recommend the three Ps: Practice, Perseverance, and Prayer.

My daughter in 8th grade is doing very well, and has finished some of her courses. Could she start taking a 9th grade course for high school credit?

Yes, we do have some students who do that, as long as it is not too burdensome for the student, and as long as there is a good chance for a good grade. Remember that high school students want to aim for high grades because college scholarships and financial aid are often based on the Grade Point Average as one factor.

If your daughter is obtaining good scores in her grammar, start her with the high school Grammar course. Many students with good scores in the pre-Algebra take Algebra I early and finish in the summer. Some students start a foreign language. These students are able to start their 9th grade with one credit already earned. By the way, we have students who regularly take a course over the summer, adding to their course credits, and lessening the daily work during the year.

Home schooling means flexibility. However, before you make the decision, consider contacting one our high school guidance counselors, such as Gene McGuirk, Bob Wiesner, or Chris Smith.

My husband supports the decision to home school, but doesn’t really do anything to help. How can I convince my husband to help me with the home schooling?

Some husbands are happy to help, even anxious to help. They want to teach their favorite subject, history or math or science. They want to be involved with the home schooling. However, some husbands are working long hours, and have work problems on their minds, and simply cannot “engage” with the teaching. In these cases, you must think of other ways they can help.

You might have the children prepare an oral report to give to dad when he gets home; or, ask dad to quiz the children on what they learned that day. Taking the children on field trips is popular with many dads. Some dads might be helpful with building bookcases or a closet, maybe with the children learning with him. We encourage fathers to take a child to work, especially the junior high or high school students. Not only is a good relationship encouraged, but young people learn how much work Dad does to support the family. Students learn the value of their schooling as they see their father fill out reports using math skills or writing up reports using English, spelling, and vocabulary skills.

Most important, as you say the daily prayers with your children, always include prayers for your husband. The children need to recognize the sacrifices of their father as well as the well-being and dependency of the family on their father and his work.

Are you going to offer full courses online?

We have several lesson plans online now, but they are to be used in conjunction with the textbook.

Recently, we have put Biology online, our first full course, fully online. All the text is online. No book is used but students can print out the chapters if they wish to highlight important points for study purposes. We have added images and are constantly adding videos. The Review Questions and the chapter tests are online also. Earth Science will be added soon.

We do not see ourselves putting the entire curriculum online. Besides the fact that reading it is usually easier with books than on screens, we believe that the interaction between child and parent is an important part of the educational process. We plan, in general, to use computer technology to assist the educational process but not as the main component of the process.

How can I find all the online video resources you have available?

We have more than 50 tutorial or supplemental videos available for enrolled students. For the full list, go to your My Seton page, click on the Resources tab, and then on Video Tutorials. Many are on various English courses, since most inquiries are about English courses. However, we intend to expand to other areas, such as history, science, and religion. (Right now, we have 100 audios on History, and numerous weekly audios on the high school English courses.)

The online supplemental video resources are meant to help students in many different ways. Videos are presented to help understand how to use the course manuals and all the features of the English manuals. The high school videos present certain points about particular assignments, especially those assignments for which we receive the most calls. We might have three videos for the first quarter of English 9 to explain certain concepts for which students have asked for help. For instance, a student in 12th grade could go on our website and see a presentation of most frequently-asked questions for the first week of the first quarter.

While most of our video presentations are by our in-house staff, we have been blessed to have English videos done by Dr. Lisa Marciano of the English department of Christendom College. Dr. Katie Moran has done a series of videos on recognizing certain learning styles and even learning problems. Ginny Seuffert has done some videos for helpful ideas for homeschooling. John Clark has done a video of homeschooling tips for Dads.

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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