Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Your Questions… Answered

Do I need to return my children’s lesson plans at the end of the year?

Yes, please return the lesson plans. Enrollments include the use of the lesson plans for the enrolled student. The lesson plans are copyrighted “intellectual property” and should not be used by other students. Lesson plans are actually rented rather than purchased.

The books you receive are yours to keep. However, if you don’t need them anymore and would like to return them, Seton does have a book donation program. Go to www.setonhome.org/new-life-for-old-books for more information.

Should I keep tests or workbooks each year as evidence of my children’s work?

It is not necessary to keep tests or workbooks as evidence since your children are enrolled in an accredited school and we can easily provide a transcript of grades based on tests and other work graded by us. However, sometimes parents keep some of the workbooks as “treasures” to present to their children when they are much older.

Why do you put so much emphasis on diagramming sentences?

Diagramming helps students to analyze the construction of sentences and the relationship of words and phrases. Catholic schools traditionally emphasized writing and thinking skills, and diagramming produces clear and accurate thinking and writing. Seton now has a number of videos to explain diagramming concepts, which are easily available for enrolled students on our website. Sixteen online diagramming tutorial videos are available currently, with a few more soon available. If you would like to see one on a particular topic, please call one of our counselors to let us know!

My child’s grades are all extremely good. Should he skip a grade?

Our experience of many, many years is that when a student skips a grade, there are unforeseen consequences. Suddenly, the student must work harder than ever, spending more time with more effort than ever before. Often parents and students quickly regret their decision.

We recommend that a student take the normal next grade level, but proceed at the pace that is best, subject by subject. A student who loves math could start out the next year by doing the review exercises for each chapter. Perhaps the first quarter or even half of the book’s exercises can be done quickly with almost perfect scores. However, there is likely to be a little slowdown, a little more time and thought required toward the second half of the book. New concepts may be introduced in the last quarter of the book. The student may be ready for the next grade level of math within a few months; at that time, a parent could order the next grade level of math. By then, there is positive proof that the student is ready for the next grade level, especially with daily prayer for success.

A student who spells all the spelling words correctly without even studying can advance to the next speller whenever the first one is finished. Perhaps the student can do two grade levels of spellers in one year.

Besides moving to the next grade level, parents may consider having the student do enrichment activities. For example, if a student is a whiz at science, instead of simply finishing up the year quickly, consider having the student do a special project or two. Let the student pick an area of interest and learn it in depth. This should have the added benefit of keeping the student excited about learning.

How can I help my young children stay on their schoolwork? They like to play with each other, especially if I leave them to take care of the baby.

Teaching the younger children demands a good deal of patience, a recognition of the attention span of young children, and the children’s need for activity, as well as the necessity of teaching self-discipline. Children in the primary grades usually need short classes and regular activity, either during the class time or between the class times. Consider purchasing a white board and have the children write their math problems or other assignments so they are kept standing and moving their arms and hands to do the problems. Let them read while walking around the kitchen while you make dinner or feed the baby.

Establish rules, not only for discipline but to make sure the work is done in a timely manner. Consider giving some sort of treat, or even a monetary reward, as an incentive for finishing a page of work in the timeframe you set. The reward must be immediate, not something to be scheduled the next day or next weekend. To God a thousand years is the same as a day, but to a child a day is the same as a thousand years.

Keep yourself in good health. Don’t allow yourself to become too emotional, frustrated, or angry. Try to solve the problem by talking it over with your husband, work out a strategy, then together you both should present the “rules” to your children. Don’t get upset if they don’t always follow your rules, but try to enforce the rules. Many homeschooling moms think that being flexible is a good idea, but that should be only after rules of discipline have been followed for a length of time. If you allow flexibility from the rules on the first day, you will never have any discipline!

Use an alarm clock to help your children stay on track in a timely manner. Set the alarm so they know that when it rings, they should be finished with their assignment.

Find good books for your young children to read. Simply reading aloud or quietly for 15 minutes develops a certain patience, concentration, and self-control.

Be sure you relate their daily activities to their religion lessons. We are not only to learn our Faith, we are to live it, so teach your children about obedience and point out when they are not obedient. Our Lord, the Blessed Mother, the stories of the saints should be discussed in relation to the daily situations in your home. These young years are a time for the children to learn the Catholic lifestyle, the daily practice of saying the Rosary, attending Mass, discussing the saints, and the children’s activities in relation to what is required of them as good Catholic children.

Two of my children have a learning disability. I believe I can do better helping them at home. Do many parents homeschool their LD children?

Many parents believe that they can do a better job teaching their children rather than have them taught by a teacher responsible for several children who have a variety of learning problems. No matter how skilled and dedicated a teacher may be, the teacher cannot have the same knowledge of the child that parents possess.

We feel that enrolling with Seton gives parents the best of both worlds—the knowledge and dedication of a parent, along with the knowledge and expertise of a trained professional. Stephen Costanzo, a fully-certified and experienced LD teacher, for many years has been helping Seton students with various learning problems. Phone counseling is available before enrolling and during the year.

Seton sells a book through our Seton Educational Media department written by a homeschooling mother with a degree in special education: Home Schooling Children with Special Needs. To learn more about our Special Needs department, go to our website, click on Curriculum, then scroll down to Special Services. We have a section on Most Frequently Asked Questions. If you still want more specific information, you can phone the Special Services department at 540-636-9990, Ext. 151.

How can my son win a college scholarship or find financial aid?

Many of our students win scholarships and obtain financial aid. Students who have learned to study on their own do very well in college. Some of our graduates help other college students with study skills and in writing workshops; they often are paid for it, even in their freshman year!

Colleges base scholarships not only on the scores of an ACT or SAT test, but also on the Grade Point Average (GPA) for high school courses. Parents need to make sure that their children are doing well in the 7th and 8th grade courses so that from the 9th grade on, their grades are high, especially in the areas of math, English, and composition.

If your children ever ask you why they need to learn math, you can point to the SAT or ACT test. A student’s score on these tests can mean the difference between gaining admissions to the student’s first choice of college, or not. Plus, a difference of a few hundred points on the SAT test can mean a difference of a few thousand dollars a year in scholarship money.

What do you recommend about joining a local home schooling support group?

I think families need to be very careful about joining support groups. They are great for some families and perhaps not so good for others.

First, you will be happier if you join a Catholic group. The support from a Catholic group will be better for you. For the children, you definitely need not just a Catholic group but a Catholic group in which the parents and children share your values and reasons for homeschooling.

Second, you need to consider if a support group actually helps you or if it hinders you from doing the homeschooling as you need to. Sometimes, support groups have so many activities for the children, they don’t have enough time to finish their assignments in a timely manner. A homeschooling support group should not prevent actual homeschooling from being done.

If you decide to join a support group, start out with being involved in only one activity at a time. Consider how you can handle it if you have four children in four different activities four afternoons a week. Not only will it be expensive in gas, but the travel time will take away from study time.

Many parents and children are involved in various sports and other activities, and these activities are no doubt good in themselves. But remember that home is where the heart is, home is where you can be in charge of teaching values, home is where the Faith can be practiced as you know it should be, home is where you and the children should spend the most time, home is where you have the most influence in training and teaching your children.

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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