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Questions We Are Asked – January 2012

Dr. Mary Kay Clark, Director of the Seton Home Study School

by Dr. Mary Kay Clark
Director, Seton Home Study School

Am I required to give home grades?

You are not required to give home grades; if you do not, then your student’s quarter grade will be based solely on the Seton-graded assignments. There is no problem with this, except that students tend to receive higher grades when the home grades are averaged with the Seton grades.

Why did you send an email to parents of high school students asking about grades?

We recently sent an email to all families who have students in high school but for whom no quarter grades have been recorded.

Although we do not wish to put any time pressure on families, we want to keep better track of how students are progressing. By determining which families are doing fine and which are having difficulties, we can better focus our resources on families who need some help. We want to make it as easy as possible for families to use the assistance that we offer.

We encourage families to seek help early on. A student who has been struggling for a week is much easier to help than a student who has been struggling for several months. Our counselors can give specific helps for each subject, or even work with parents to determine if perhaps the course load is too great, and if courses should be dropped or switched.

It is important for high school students to obtain good grades, and we want to help them be successful. For the sake of a good grade point average, which colleges are looking for, students need to obtain good grades from their first year in high school. Colleges base financial aid not only on need, but also on the SAT or ACT grades, as well as the high school grades.

Are you going to offer any course videos other than the diagram videos?

Yes, we will be offering tutoring videos, especially for our high school students, and likely for the 7th and 8th grade students as well.

Besides the videos, we have audio tutoring lectures as well. Students and parents can access the audio by going to the Home Page, putting in the Family Number and Password. Make sure your student’s name is in the upper right-hand corner. Then click on All Course Resources. Scroll down for all Resources for all the courses in which that student is enrolled. Available tutoring audios are on the list. They are offered as helps in relation to the lesson plans weekly assignments, and the future videos will do the same.

For the upcoming videos, our English counselors are evaluating what questions come up most often for each assignment. Based on these questions, we will develop weekly video tutoring lessons.

I mail to Seton all the quarter tests at one time, but my friend sends the tests in as they are done. Which is better?

In grade school, we encourage mailing in all the quarter work at once, but for high school we encourage sending in work as it is completed. The reason is simple: high school courses are more complex, and if a student is having trouble, that needs to be detected as quickly as possible.

We notice that some moms wait until two quarters—or even four quarters—of tests are finished before sending them in. While the decision is up to you, you may find that sending in only one quarter at a time gives you the opportunity to evaluate what your child is learning and where he is making mistakes. It certainly is easier to review one quarter than two quarters of lessons. And if an entire year’s worth of work is sent in at once, then there is no opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes, or to take any direction from grader comments.

Instead of using the mail, we encourage either uploading assignments and/or making use of the online tests, which are available in grades 4 and up. Online tests cannot be misplaced while waiting to be mailed, or lost in the mail, either coming or going. Online tests are graded more quickly. Students are anxious to see their grades, and if you delay sending in the tests, the students can become uninterested in their work. They start thinking it is not so important to do the work in a timely manner, since there is a such a time lag between completion and grading.

Electronic grading is also less expensive, for Seton and for families, since there is no need to pay postage.

Due to health problems, we have fallen behind in our home schooling. We are trying to catch up. Do you have any advice?

In the elementary grades, you might need to move along more quickly in history, science, spelling, and vocabulary, but focus on religion, math, phonics, reading, and English. The other subjects could be done only once or twice a week.

The high school subjects are more important for grades on a transcript. However, high school students could take only one or two courses at a time, doing lessons for one subject in the morning for a few hours, and doing a second subject in the afternoon. In this way, students can proceed more quickly and finish up two courses in perhaps two months.

For math in grades 7 through 12, we highly recommend the DIVE CDs or the Saxon Teacher CDs. These are extremely helpful for students as they can review the lessons as many times as they need to learn the concepts.

Once when a move put my family behind schedule, my boys worked to catch up on Saturdays. They preferred that to having classes in the summer.

What do you think about hiring a tutor?

Before hiring an outside tutor, you might first look to the resources in your own home. Older siblings are often the best tutors. Not only can this help the younger student, but it helps the older student to solidify his own knowledge of math or phonics or English or whatever as he “teaches” or listens to the younger student. Some parents pay their assistant for helping with an appropriate amount, or this can merely be counted as one of the daily chores.

Tutors in the extended family, such as uncles and aunts, grandparents, or other like-minded relatives have proven very, very successful. Only after ruling out other sources should an outside, paid tutor be considered. In such cases, you might ask around your church, or check at a local college, to find a qualified person who can help. Of course, you will want to check references and carefully monitor the situation.

Just keep in mind that God gave parents the special gifts to teach their own children, so make sure the tutors are part-time.

What do you think about my high school son being enrolled in one class at the local high school?

The problem is that the local high school is permeated with the materialistic, secular culture. Even one course taken every day will bring your child into close contact with people you would likely not choose for his friends, so you need to be very careful. Your son might be enrolled in a French class or might be in a science class, but the students, the teacher, the textbooks, the extra-curricular conversations and events, all work to influence your son in a non-Catholic value system. With the states legalizing same-sex “marriages,” and thus added to the curriculum, anti-Christian “values” and an anti-family attitude permeates everyone and everything at the school. Once your child is exposed, you cannot take his innocence back or remove his “new knowledge” of the “real world.” You might not realize what ideas or values he has “accepted” until it is too late.

People tend to think that even if public schools generally are problematic, their local school is okay because they know their community and they know that the teachers and administrators are good people. While there are certainly good and dedicated—even heroic—people in public schools, the system itself is the problem, since it denies the importance of religion. It teaches a worldview that sets up recycling and minimizing your carbon footprint as the goal in life, rather than teaching virtue and piety.

Homeschooling or home education is really about home and family and Faith.

I still can’t find some things, like the answer keys.

Before you begin homeschooling, you should spend a week going through the course materials. We recommend using two three-ring binders and separating the lesson plans (which your older students may read and follow) in one binder, and putting the tests, the quarter report forms, and the answer keys in a second binder. We also suggest that you skim read through all the lesson plans so that you understand how it all works. You have the Teacher Planner to help you take notes for yourself.

For older students, especially those in high school, go through the lesson plans for each subject with each student. Also, check out your MySeton page and find out all the helps and supplements that are available online.

Do I need to sit with my high school student for each subject?

High school students often can do most of the work themselves, such as a reading assignment, or answering questions at the end of a chapter. Set up a schedule with each student, have a plan for them to check off their work assignment, and schedule time each day to make sure the work has been done. This can be done by Dad in the evening. Do not assume your student is doing the work. In some classes, perhaps in religion, your student will be doing fine, but in English or Algebra, you may need to keep a more watchful eye, or you may need to do some serious teaching. Your husband should be more involved with at least some of the subjects with some of the children.

What suggestions do you have for a 7th grade girl who is obviously bright, reads the encyclopedia and can recite the information back to you, but who takes a week to do one day’s school assignment?

Here’s an idea that has worked for some students: tell her she is on her own for her schoolwork, and that you are no longer going to pester her about her assignments. However, you will pay her for every test (not assignments) she passes with a 90 or above. Tell her whenever she finishes a course, whether it is math or science or religion or history or whatever, she can immediately begin the 8th grade in that subject. Tell her if she finishes an 8th grade subject the same way, she can start a high school course in that same subject. So if she finishes her 7th grade math, she can start Algebra ½. Once she finishes that, even if she is in 8th grade, she can start earning high school credits and start Algebra I.

As soon as she begins high school, have her visit Catholic colleges. Let her see what college is about. Some Catholic colleges, like Christendom, offer summer program, usually for Religion, to show high school students what college will be like. Colleges also allow high school students to visit for a week during the school year. During her first year in high school, have her take the ACT or SAT test. This will impress on her just how much she needs to learn before attending college.