Catholic Home Schooling

Author: Mary Kay Clarke


Mary Kay Clark

The educational situation in which our children find themselves today is unfortunately very bleak. There is no need to summarize for readers of this tract the secular humanist horrors of the public schools, horrors which have driven so many families to private education, only to find the same secularism there and, in the case of Catholic schools, a modernist apostasy that is even worse. The simple fact is that many parents find themselves in an area in which the only acceptable school is so far away or so expensive that they cannot send their children to it without extraordinary, even impossible, sacrifice. And so they turn to the possibility of educating their children at home.

This may seem an awesome responsibility, but there is only one way to consider it fairly: to see exactly how it would be done once one has decided to do it. I urge the reader to put himself in the position of having chosen home study long enough to find out how it works, and so to decide whether it might not be God's plan for his family.

Getting Started

Once you have decided to teach your own children, you should decide whether to teach from your own lessons or to enroll your children in one of the Catholic correspondence schools, such as Seton Home Study School. Many of the things which I will advise in this paper are done by Home Study Schools, which make it easier for parents in some ways. However, the program can be more individualized if you choose to write the daily lessons yourself .

An important first step is to write out a Statement of Philosophy, to make it clear to yourself, your spouse, and your children what you hope to accomplish. Why is a Home School necessary? What are your purposes? What are the values you intend to impart to your children? Your Statement of Philosophy should be in positive terms however, and not simply reflect your objections to something in the local schools. It is vital that you and your spouse agree on the Statement and, if you enroll in a Home Study School, their Statement of Philosophy should agree with yours. Your statement could prove vitally important as evidence to local authorities of your "religious convictions" and "sincerity of belief."

If you do not enroll with a Home Study School, you must decide on a name for your Home School. Obtain a post-office-box address; have stationery printed with the name and address. Be sure not to include "home" in the name of your school. Official school stationery is needed to order textbooks, teacher's manuals, answer keys, tests, examination copies (to look over for 30 days), sample texts (which you may keep), and publisher's catalogs. School stationery is important for receiving counselor's information regarding colleges, vocational schools, and achievement tests. Perhaps the most important need for your school stationery is to obtain your children's school records.

Obtaining school records can be a delicate operation for those who have once had their children enrolled in the public or parochial school systems. It is well to locate other Home Schooling parents in your school district and find out how they obtained the school records. (Write the National Association of Home Educators, Route 3, Box 324-B, Gallatin, Missouri 64640. They will pass your letter on to Home Schooling parents in your area.) In a large metropolitan area, there probably will be no questions asked if you request your children's records on your school stationery. In a small community, school authorities might ask questions about a school which they have never heard about. Some parents obtain a post-office-box address in another community for this reason, and others first enroll their children in a private Christian school, so that records will be removed from the files of the government school.

If you believe the local school authorities will give you no trouble (which is possible if you are a former school teacher) or if you feel strongly about the direct approach, you can go directly to the school and principal and tell him you wish to teach your children at home. This direct approach is more successful in the South and, as time goes on, with larger numbers of families teaching at home, this direct approach will be more agreeable. However, many principals would rather not know about your potentially controversial Home School.

Keep in mind that you have the right to your children's records. Also remember that as long as the records remain in a principal's office, someone may cause bureaucratic difficulties for you at a future date. (Of course, if you enroll in a Home Study School, that school will request the school records for you.) It is important also to keep in mind that you are within your legal rights to educate your children at home, even though school officials and even school lawyers may tell you it is against the law. There are exceptions to the law and different interpretations by the courts. For example, the State of Michigan had five different interpretations in two years. Usually once local authorities realize that you will not be "bluffed" and that you have legal consultation, they will back down. Please be assured that the great majority of parents never go to court. Those who do win nine out of ten cases. One lawyer who has handled 150 Home Schooling cases has not lost a single one!

Though at present there are no State requirements for Home Study Schools, it is prudent to follow some of the rules for the government schools which do not infringe on parental rights. Most states, for example, require about 180 school days per year. Future legislation, already in progress, will have calendar and attendance requirements for home schools; you should be ready for them.

Obtain blank or school-term calendars from teacher's stores or from Continental Press. Fill in the required number of school days, from September through June. Be sure to note the non-school days for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter vacations, as well as holidays and holy days. You may include as school days two days each year for Teacher Student counseling, to discuss curriculum, procedure, classwork, or whatever. These are usually at the beginning of the year and in late January. Field trips can be included as regular school days also. Public schools plan about two Field trips each semester, but the Home School may schedule many more, perhaps two or three each month. Your children do not have to make up days they are sick (unless it is an excessive number). Public schools allow up to about seven days a year for bad weather, which they are not required to make up, so there is no need to worry if you miss a few days due to family problems.

A Curriculum Guide is most important for your Home Study School. It is a clear guide for each subject at each level for you, your spouse, and your children. If you are enrolled in a Home Study School, you should be provided with a Curriculum Guide on request. Local school authorities and legal authorities commonly request a Curriculum Guide from Home Schooling parents. State Departments of Education require various sections, but a Home School Curriculum Guide need have only three sections, and those only for the grades being taught.

The first section should be Objectives: what your child should be able to accomplish after taking the course. This includes not only "knowing" the course material but "appreciating," for example, the world of nature, or "desiring" to read during his leisure hours, and so on. The second section should be Scope and Sequence: what specific areas of knowledge you intend to teach in the particular course. Sometimes the "Objectives" and "Scope and Sequence" can be found in the Teacher's Manual but be sure they are actually what you intend to teach. Most parents do not limit their teaching to one textbook. A third and most vital section of the Curriculum Guide must be how your own particular philosophy, as outlined in your Statement of Philosophy, is incorporated into this particular subject area at this level. This section might be titled "Catholicism in Reading for Grade Two," for example.

A Curriculum Guide takes thought, work, and time. Each subject taught at each level must have three sections, and each section should have at least eight or ten points. As for the specific subjects, read your State Code to find out exactly which subjects are required in your State. Most states require the following: Reading, Oral and Written English, Handwriting, Spelling; Mathematics; Natural Sciences, including Conservation; Health and Physical Education; the Constitution of the United States, the State Constitution, the Declaration of Independence; social problems, the United Nations; World Government; socialism and communism. Most states now require instruction in the harmful effects of narcotics and alcohol, as well as instruction about venereal diseases. Because parents may have their children excused from Sex Education classes in the public schools, such instruction at home may proceed on a normal basis rather than with a scheduled classtime.

Home Schooling parents should read the whole section in their State Code on Education. Legislators list the subjects to be taught, but the State Department of Education recommends which subjects should be taught at each grade level. You may want to consult a local private or Christian school, but as long as the required subjects are taught sometime, there is some flexibility about specific subjects at each level.

The Course of Studies

Reading selections are completely optional in the elementary grades, but World Literature usually is recommended for grades nine and ten, American Literature for grade eleven, and British Literature for grade twelve. Extra literature courses are optional, such as Shakespeare. The college-bound student should have three years of Literature.

Phonics is an area which has been seriously neglected over the past several years. Many schools are now returning to Phonics for first and second grades. However, I recommend Phonics for five or six grades, depending on individual need. Phonics at the upper levels consists of not only a review of sounds of vowel digraphs and diphthongs, but also analyzes the meaning of suffixes, prefixes, and roots.

General Science is taught through the elementary grades. High schools today offer Earth Science or Biology to ninth graders, Biology or Physics for tenth graders, Physics or Chemistry for eleventh graders, Chemistry or Advanced Physics for twelfth graders. Many schools are supplementing with courses on the environment. Conservation, either as a separate unit or as part of another course, is required by most states. Home Schooling students should take two years of Science even if the state does not require it; the college-bound student should take three years. Obviously, some courses might be difficult for the student at home without benefit of a laboratory, but local colleges or Adult Education centers often offer such courses for high school students.

General Math is taught through the eight grades. The high school Math consists of Algebra I, Geometry I, Algebra II, Trigonometry, and PreCalculus, or Calculus. The college-bound student should take three years of Math. Some extra options being offered today are Bookkeeping, Accounting, Consumer Math, and Computer Programming.

Under the name of Social Studies, the government schools are teaching a variety of subjects, much of which is not State-required. Many of the texts are teaching a value-system rather than facts about the family, the community, and the world. High School Social Studies programs often include Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, "Male and Female in Today's World," and so on. Much of the material contains secular-humanistic philosophies.

For the first three grades, I recommend books from the library about explorers, which you can supplement with globe and map work; and books about famous people such as Christopher Columbus or George Washington. The public schools teach world culture and geography. Fifth graders are taught early U.S. History and sixth graders Ancient World History. World geography as well as State History and government is taught in the seventh grade, U.S. government and history in the eighth grade.

It is not necessary for Home Schools to adhere to this schedule strictly, but it is a good idea to follow the program in your school district if for any reason your children must return to the public school system. At Seton Home Study School, seventh graders have U.S. history with a half-semester of State history and government, eighth graders receive a course in World Culture which emphasizes the contributions of Catholics in all areas of culture from nations around the world.

Ninth graders in the government schools usually are taught World History up to the 1500's, while tenth graders study recent World History. Eleventh graders take U.S. History, and twelfth graders study U.S. Government or Civics, sometimes called "Problems in Democracy." Students have the option to take Sociology or Anthropology or one of the subjects mentioned previously. Public schools usually require two years of high school "Social Studies" but I recommend that the Home Schooling student intending to go to college take three or four years of History and Geography.

English Grammar often is neglected in the public schools or is taught on a very simplified level. Home Schooling parents should teach Grammar during all twelve years, separate from the Reading in the Grammar class, so that students realize the value of learning good grammar as they write. Spelling may be incorporated into the English class, depending on how much time a student needs in this area; students needing extra help should have a special fifteen-minute class, even in high school if necessary.

Though high school foreign-language requirements are changing, most colleges still require two years of a foreign language for incoming Freshmen. Latin is the best foreign language for Catholic Home Study students, not only because it is the official language of the Church, but also because its the basis for other languages, is helpful in other areas of study such as the sciences and law, and helps students understand their own English Grammar.

Music, Art, and Physical Education are required by State Departments of Education, though not always by legislators. Public schools teach these subjects each year during the elementary grades, and usually one year of each is required by the individual school systems during the high school years. High schools offer a wide variety of optional courses, which gives the Home Schooling student the right to an even wider selection of courses available throughout the community. Many vocational subjects may be considered "Art," such as Home Economics or Woodworking. Many Home Study students at the high school level fulfill their Physical Education requirements by taking sport or activity classes in their community.

Obtaining Textbooks

One of the most serious problems facing Catholic home schooling parents is obtaining Catholic textbooks. Since the Catholic Diocesan schools began purchasing secular texts rather than Catholic texts more than twenty years ago, textbook publishers have phased out their Catholic Schools Divisions. There is at this time no publisher of Catholic textbooks for Literature, English, Science, History, Spelling, and so on. Loyola University Press still has available a Catholic Latin series and a Catholic History textbook. Anne Carroll from Seton School has published two history books for high school. But in general Catholics must search for old, out-of-print Catholic texts, or purchase textbooks from Christian publishers such as Rod and Staff, A Beka Book, or Alpha Omega. Seton Home Study School as well as Our Lady of Victory and Our Lady of the Rosary Home Study Schools all have been able to purchase a few Catholic titles in quantity.

Home schooling parents who do not enroll in a home study school must obtain Catholic books from relatives, friends, or retired teachers, priests, and nuns. They may be found also at garage sales, used book sales, library-book sales (Catholic books donated but never used by the library), seminary book sales (usually unadvertised), Catholic college book sales, and so on. Run ads in your small local newspaper or in the diocesan paper for old Catholic catechisms, literature books, readers, histories, spellers, grammars, music books, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and saint's biographies. Offer $5 for a book and you should receive them quickly if they are still available.

Books, tapes, films, filmstrips, magazines, and pamphlets sometimes can be obtained free from local Catholic groups such as the Knights of Columbus, The Blue Army, Third Orders, missionary groups, and various apostolates. The Daughters of St. Paul have excellent films. Marian Shrines usually have a bookstore with a variety of books and religious items. Don't neglect to use Catholic newspapers and magazines for religion, history, and reading classes. As a home schooling parent, your resources are limited only by your own resourcefulness.

When ordering textbooks, remember that almost all publishers will send you "examination copies" which you may examine for thirty days. Always order on school stationery. Be sure to order the free catalogs first. Obtain new catalogs each year since prices and editions change. Make payments with your school checks. Usually Mother can use her maiden name as the principal ordering the texts, while the Father can sign the checks as the Treasurer.

Do not neglect using the writings of the Church Fathers, the papal encyclicals, or writings by or about the saints as material for your classes. These can be obtained easily and inexpensively from the Daughters of St. Paul or TAN Publishers. Since your basic reason for existence is to teach Catholic values to your children in each subject area, it would be contrary to your Statement of Philosophy not to include Catholic writings in each subject area. Catholic selections can be used for exercises in Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling, Creative Writing, History, and Literature. Following the travels of missionaries can teach geography. Bible quotations and papal quotations can be found on just about any topic.

If you do not have your children enrolled in a home study school, you may be interested in knowing about the specific titles which are still available and recommended. The Baltimore Catechism (from Stella Maris Books or TAN Publishers) can be the basic Religion text for twelve years, but it is wise to supplement it in high school. The St. Joseph edition can be purchased from the Catholic Book Publishing Company. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, newly reprinted by TAN, is excellent for high school students. A successful high school religious series is published by Cashel Institute. Two series which have solid Catholic doctrine and which can supplement the previously-mentioned catechisms are the Know, Love and Serve series from PROW Publishers; and the Way, Truth and Life elementary level series and the Divine Master series for high school levels, both from the Daughters of St. Paul. Excellent basic catechisms can be purchased from the Center for Family Catechetics: The Catechism of Christian Doctrine by Pope St. Pius X, The Catholic Child's Way of Life (the "small child's" edition of the Pius X catechism for grades one, two, and three), The Catholic Faith: A First Course in Religion for Small Children (to prepare for Confession and First Holy Communion), and a teacher's manual for The Catholic Faith. Two other excellent books for high school combining catechesis and apologetics are Catholicism and Reason and Catholicism and Life (both from Prow). Catholic books which can supplement the junior and senior high school religion classes can be purchased from TAN.

For older religion texts no longer in print but still available, write the Anna Catherine Emmerick Shrine and the St. Francis Retreat Center Book Store. Other places to look are church libraries and St. Vincent de Paul shops. A superior though out-of-print catechism series is the Our Holy Faith series for the elementary level and the Our Quest for Happiness series for the high school level, published by Bruce.

Catholic Readers are available to some extent. A few titles can be purchased new from Modern Curriculum Press or used from Adams or Wilcox and Follett, or from the Anna Catherine Emmerick Shrine. Though the out-of-print Faith and Freedom series (in several editions) is still the best reading series for the elementary grades, many excellent old Catholic readers can be found at local book sales and seminary libraries. Some Catholic reading series to look for are The Christian Child Reading Series by Reardon-Baer Division of Modern Curriculum Press, the Ideal or New Ideal Catholic Readers from Macmillan Company, the Cathedral or New Cathedral Basic Readers published by Scott Foresman, and the Benzinger American History Readers.

At the high school levels, the best Literature series is the Thomas More series, written under the direction of Catholic University and published by Singer. Another excellent series is the Cardinal Newman series published by Harcourt. The earlier editions of Macmillan's Pageant of Literature series are very good also. All three of these series are out of print but can be obtained as noted previously. Additional older books which are not textbooks but which are helpful are The Catholic Tradition in English Literature by Carver, published by Doubleday; English Literature by Shuster, published by Allyn and Bacon; The World's Great Catholic Literature by Shuster, published by Macmillan; and Joyce Kilmer's Anthology of Catholic Poets by Liveright Publishers.

If you cannot locate the old and used Catholic readers or Literature texts, you may want to use Christian readers or literature texts from Rod and Staff publishers, a Beka Book publishers, or William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (which publishes from the National Union of Christian Schools). Mott Media, a publisher of Christian materials, has an excellent high school supplementary series called "Lifeview: A Christian Approach to Literature Studies." These inexpensive pamphlets contain questions for discussion from a Christian perspective on such high-school reading selections as Ben-Hur, Old Man and the Sea, The Hobbit, and many more.

Supplementary readers are a must for home schooled children because they learn so rapidly. Many are available at the local library (ask the librarian for the readers which have a controlled vocabulary limited to the phonics most children learn at certain grade levels). Other good supplementary readers are The McGuffey Readers, Christian School Edition from David Thoburn; and the Lippincott Publishers Basic Reading series, 1970 or 1964 editions, still available from used-book stores. This last series is especially good for vocabulary development.

In addition to supplemental readers, additional books should be read as much as possible. These should be for fun and a matter of choice. Daughters of St. Paul publishes a large quantity of saints biographies for children and teenagers. Lists of classics or good reading selections may be obtained from Seton Home Study School for the elementary, junior high, or senior high levels.

A long-time leader in phonics publications is the Modern Curriculum Press, but their Catholic materials are no longer available. Their Phonics workbooks are very good, though not Christian. Both Rod and Staff and A Beka Book offer good Christian phonics workbooks. The secular Professor Phonics books by Sister Monica are excellent tools for the parent-teacher to use for dictation, but are not in workbook form for the student.

Catholic reading comprehension workbooks are no longer available, but Rod & Staff, Continental Press, Harcourt, and Modern Curriculum Press offer good series. Reading comprehension is an important area which must not be neglected. Far too many children learn their phonics but cannot explain what they have read in their own words. Parents must constantly question their children to make sure that the reading selection is properly understood. In addition, parents must discuss the application of the reading to the child's own life: "Was the hero acting according to God's commandments? As a Catholic, how would you have acted in this particular circumstance? Why?" Reading class offers a daily opportunity for parents to discuss Catholic views. Along with Religion class, it is one class that should never be omitted.

Although some children learn enough vocabulary through their daily reading, educators at the college level complain that students do not have an adequate reading and writing vocabulary. Consequently, parents who would like extra help for vocabulary studies for their children might obtain Wordly Wise, a series for grades four through twelve, published by Educators Publishing Service. Harcourt publishes a good Vocabulary Workbook series for the junior and senior high-school levels.

English Grammar should be taught for twelve years along with Creative Writing or Composition. The old Catholic Loyola University Press series Voyages in English is available at local book sales; Seton Home Study School has purchased a large supply for their students. Loyola recently has revised the series, editing out all Catholic references, but it is still an excellent series, with workbooks and Teacher's Editions. Rod and Staff and A Beka Book have good Christian English series, but there are a few anti-Catholic references in the A Beka Book series. Secular but good series available from the publishers are Harcourt's Warriner's English Grammar and Composition series (popular in Christian schools), and Harper and Row's Basic Language series, both of these for only the junior and senior high school levels.

Creative Writing assignments are contained in the English textbooks, with excellent suggestions in the other Catholic texts. Good but secular Creative Writing workbooks are available from Harcourt, such as the Harcourt Reading/Writing Workshop, for grades seven through ten. The recent study done by the Carnegie Foundation on the nation's public high schools concluded that English and Creative Writing are the most seriously-neglected subjects.

Catholic Spellers are no longer available. Rod and Staff (Christian) incorporates Spelling into the Language Arts Workbooks. Seton Home Study uses the secular Spell Correctly series by Silver-Burdett, but encourages parents to include words from the Religion lesson which follow the spelling pattern to be learned in the particular lesson. Other good spellers are published by Laidlaw and Harcourt. Christian handwriting books are likewise available from Rod and Staff. Children learn not only how to form their letters, but they also learn about people in the Bible. An excellent but secular handwriting series is published by the long-recognized experts in handwriting, the Zaner-Bloser company. Zaner-Bloser also sells many extra handwriting aids, such as extra practice books, lined handwriting paper for different grade levels, a manual for teaching the left-handed student, and wall-sized letter charts for daily reference.

With respect to foreign languages, for the Catholic college-bound student, Latin is the best language to learn. It is not necessary for Latin students to have absolutely correct pronunciation, which makes it easier for the parent-teacher who may not speak any foreign language. Loyola University Press publishes the Father Henle Latin series, which incorporates papal quotes, various prayers, and Church history along with Roman history.

Mathematics, of course, is intrinsically neither Christian nor non-Christian, except with respect to the types of word problems it solves. The best Christian Math series is published by Rod and Staff, though all grades are not yet available. A Beka Book has reprinted an old but excellent series, the Upton series, but only some levels are available. A Beka Book is publishing a new Christian Math series, which is available from pre-school level through eighth grade. (Bob Jones University Press materials are unfortunately marred by anti-Catholicism in varying degrees). Continental Press Basic Mathematics workbooks and Harcourt Growth in Mathematics workbooks are good for extra drill exercises. Inexpensive out-of-print math texts and workbooks can be found easily at local K-Marts and grocery stores.

There is a wide diversity of opinion regarding high school Math textbooks. I recommend for the home schooling student Algebra One, Algebra Two and Geometry, along with the Teacher's Editions, published by Merrill. A popular series in the Christian schools is the Houghton-Mifflin Modern Algebra and Modern Geometry. A new series which has received a great deal of praise but which I have not finished evaluating for the home study student is John Saxon's book Algebra 1 and Algebra 1½, published by Graffdale.

Use only Christian History and Geography textbooks. Fortunately, at the high school level, there are two Catholic series in print. Anne Carroll, the principal of Seton School, has written a Catholic World History text which can be used for both 9th and 10th grades: Christ the King, Lord of History. She also has written a United States and Latin American History text for 11th grade: Christ and the Americas. In addition, Loyola University Press still has copies of Western Civilization, a world history text for 9th and 10th grades. TAN Publishers has reprinted Bible History and The Story of The Church, both excellent history textbooks for junior and senior high school level. Our Sunday Visitor will be reprinting Our American Catholic Heritage, a collection of biographies with numerous photographs of Catholics involved in important historical events. Some very old but solidly-Catholic high school series were published by Doubleday (Conceived in Liberty: The Common Good); by Sadlier (Christianity and Civilization); and by Holt, Rinehart, Winston (Man and History).

The twelfth grade "Social Studies" program is optional in most high schools. However, a course in United States Government, which is required by State legislature, often is taught in the senior year. This is sometimes called Problems in Democracy. Christian schools teach Government or Civics, and stress patriotism and basic Biblical principles of government. Some Christian schools offer excellent courses on Communism and its philosophy as compared with Christianity; such a course is available from A Beka Book company. Catholic home schooling parents should teach a Contemporary Problems course in addition to a United States Government course. The Contemporary Problems course should deal with the issues our Catholic young people must face as they enter the business world or the world of the secularized college. "Textbooks" can be encyclicals, the Bible, Catholic dictionaries and encyclopedias, Catholic newspapers and periodicals. Probably the least-offensive U.S. Government textbook is Magruder's American Government, published by Allyn and Bacon. Harcourt's American Civics is a fairly good text; the material is not difficult, and it has a workbook and test booklet. To a degree, the suitability of such texts will depend upon your own political viewpoint. Catholic political principles can be learned from the encyclicals of the past century. Along with the American Government or Civics course, include a study unit on your own State Government, utilizing the resources in your local library.

The old Catholic History and Geography books for the elementary levels are difficult to locate. Some few titles are still available from the used-book companies, Adams, and Wilcox and Follett, as well as from the Anna Catherine Emmerick Shrine. Three out-of- print series were published by Silver-Burdett, Sadlier, and Laidlaw. If you cannot locate the old titles, you may want to purchase texts from Rod and Staff, though not many grades are available. A Beka Book publishes History texts for all the elementary grades, but the books omit the important place of Catholics in U.S. History, and even become anti-Catholic in the upper grade levels.

Three Christian publishers which have elementary Science series are A Beka Book, Rod and Staff, and Bob Jones University (check BJU texts for occasional anti-Catholicism). Although there are some areas which need correction, such as concern Galileo and the Catholic Church, and these texts endorse Creationism as a scientific theory (a position Catholics may — but are not required to — embrace), the books offer an excellent overall Christian perspective. Bob Jones University publishes an excellent high school science series also. An excellent Christian textbook for the advanced high school student is Search for Order in Complexity, prepared by the Creation Research Society, published by Zondervan Publishing.

Health courses are required by State legislators, and are usually taught through the elementary and high school levels. Rod and Staff is the only publisher of Christian Health books, but some of the A Beka Book science books contain Health information, as do some of the secular science texts. The secular texts often contain sex education, population control, too-detailed information on drugs, and other miscellaneous, often objectionable information.

The older editions of the Laidlaw Health series, either the 1966 or the 1970, available at used-book sources, contain good health information yet avoid controversial subjects. The new Healthful Living series from Laidlaw, the 1970 or 1974 editions, still may be available from Laidlaw directly. Correct or omit chapters as necessary. Health books and booklets usually are in ample supply from your local library's pamphlet file. Free health pamphlets may be obtained from Health agencies, doctor's offices and State Health Departments. Of course, your local Red Cross offers materials as well as First Aid classes. Your local library or bookstore may have a copy of Free and Inexpensive Materials, which contains a great number of items on Health, including filmstrips.

Usually one year of Health is required for high school students. A subscription to Prevention magazine or another Health magazine can provide ample material for class studies, plus reading researched in the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. Contact Health Food stores and your Red Cross for ideas for educational field trips. Check television listings for programs relating to good health practices.

Most State Departments of Education require Art, Music, and Physical Education through all the elementary grades, and at least one year of each at the high school levels. For the very early grades, Daughters of St. Paul have coloring books on the Rosary, the Sacraments and other religious topics. If you enroll at Seton, you will be given ideas for art projects conforming to the Liturgical Calendar. Otherwise, you can obtain arts and crafts books at the library or teacher's stores and adapt the ideas to conform to your Statement of Philosophy. This is an area in which you should consider the special artistic interests and abilities of your child. For older students, a Catholic art appreciation class would be appropriate, emphasizing religious art and architecture, with field trips to local churches and museums.

Catholic music books for children are available, as well as records, from the Daughters of St. Paul and other Catholic bookstores, and even some good ones from Protestant bookstores. Music requirements can be met, however, by singing in the Church choir, by taking weekly music lessons, or by dancing in a local amateur production.

For Physical Education, books on exercises games, and other activities are available in the children's department of most libraries. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully; this is one area in which it is better to do too little than too much for undeveloped muscles. However, this requirement can be met by enrolling your child in local classes in swimming, fencing, or whatever meets the needs and interests of your child. In fact, simply arranging a weekly physical activity for your children (even on the weekend), such as roller skating, sledding, bicycle riding, and so on, will fulfill the physical education requirement.

Scheduling and Testing

Most State Departments of Education have a suggested weekly time allocation for the various subjects at each grade level. This is contained in your state's Minimum Standards for Elementary or High Schools. Borrow a copy from a friendly Christian school principal. Of course, these "suggested" requirements are for the public and certified private schools. However, as home schooling legislation increases, and as educational and legal authorities examine the Home Schooling movement, regulations in this area will be forthcoming. (It would be prudent for home schooling parents to follow any State guidelines which do not compromise their principles).

The following guideline is from the State of Ohio, but it should be about the same in most states (My comments are in parentheses):

Grade 1: 

Reading: 120 min. per day (includes Phonics)
Language Development: 30 min. per day (English, Spelling, Creative Writing) 
Handwriting: 20 min. per day 
Math: 30 min. per day (recommend increasing this) 
Social Studies: 30 min. three times per week (History & Geography)
Science/Health: 30 min. twice each week 
Art & Music: each 60 min. each week
Physical Education: 30 min. each week

Grade 2: 

Reading: 120 min. per day (includes phonics)
Language: 30 min. per day (Grammar) (combine Grammar & Creative Writing)
Spelling: 15 min. per day
Creative Writing: 15 min. per day (I recommend Handwriting 10 min. per day)
Math: 30 min. per day (I recommend 45 min.)
Social Studies: 30 min. three times per week (History & Geography)
Science/Health: 30 min. twice a week (includes Safety & Fire Prevention)
Art, Music, Physical Ed: each one hour per week (reduce each by 10 min.)

Grade 3: 

Reading: 90 min. per day (recommend 120; have your child read the Science or History
     lesson) (includes Phonics)
Language: 30 min. per day (Grammar) (Combine with Creative Writing)
Spelling: 30 min. per day
Creative Writing: 20 min. per day (recommend Handwriting 10 min. per day)
Math: 30 min. per day (recommend 45 min.)
Social Studies: 40 min. three times each week (History & Geography)
Science/Health: 40 min. twice a week (includes First Aid, Safety, Fire Prevention)
Art: one hour per week
Music & Physical Education: 70 min. per day (reduce to 60 min.)

Grades 4, 5, & 6:

Reading: 60 min. per day (must include vocab. development, Comprehension discussion,
     and Phonics: extend to 75 minutes)
Language: 45 min. per day (Grammar, Creative Writing, Spelling)
Math: 40 min. per day (recommend 50 or 60)
Social Studies: 40 min. per day (History & Geography)
Science: 40 min. three times per week (increase to four times) 
Health: 40 min. twice per week (decrease to once a week) (includes First Aid, Safety,
     Fire Prevention)
Art, Music, Physical Education: each 40 min. two times per week (decrease one or two
     subjects by 10 min. according to child's interest)

Grade 7 & 8:

Reading: 45 min. per day
English/Spelling: 45 min. per day (includes Creative Writing)
Math: 45 min. per day
Social Studies: 45 min. per day (History, Geography, Government)
Science: 45 min. three times per week
Health: 45 min. twice a week (includes First Aid, Safety, Fire Prevention)
Art: one hour per week
Music & Physical Ed: each 45 min. twice a week

Grades 9 through 12:

Classes usually 45 to 50 min. each day, except Art, Music & Physical Education once or twice a week.

For writing the daily lessons for each child, you will need a lesson plan book. Buy one at a teacher's store or order from Continental Press. You can record the grades in the back, including final grades. Children should check off the assignments after they are done. The parent-teacher must schedule time each week to write up plans for the following week. Never write plans for more than one week in advance, since children often proceed more slowly or more quickly than you anticipated. For easier grading buy an E-Z Grader at local teacher's stores or write E-Z Grader, P.O. Box 24040, Cleveland, Ohio 44124.

Have your children do their work in notebooks rather than on loose-leaf paper. Loose-leaf papers do not store well and, until the children graduate from high school, you need to keep a record of all their work, or at least for the previous two or three years. You must be prepared in case you have to produce records for educational or legal authorities. Be sure the children date each page, indicating the book and page number.

Use a variety of materials from around the house for additional learning experiences. The kitchen makes a wonderful "lab" for science projects, for Home Economics "experiments" and for "real life" mathematical application problems. Use games such as Scrabble for Spelling class, card games for Math skills as well as eye-coordination for young children. Make use of maps from National Geographic; put them up in the classroom and around the house. Buy inexpensive microscopes atlases and globes from schools and garage sales. Magazines and newspapers are great for current events and reading comprehension. Students can use tape recorders to listen to their own reading expression, pronunciation, and spelling words. Records from the library about historical events such as You are There can make learning more exciting. Check the television for educational programs; especially good are the Wild Kingdom type shows, Shakespeare dramas, and science classes. Old family albums can provide topics for interesting discussions. Religious materials can reinforce Religion class. Your home resources can extend beyond what any classroom in a school building can offer.

Your classroom can and should extend beyond your home. The Library is your best outside help for supplemental materials. You can borrow books encyclopedias, records, films, filmstrips, pamphlets, paintings, and even projectors. If necessary, buy a used 16mm sound projector at a school sale at about half price. If you cannot borrow 16mm films from the library, order The Educator's Guide to Free Films from Educators Progress Service.

Libraries also have workshops for children to show them how to use all the library resources. Besides the library, children can visit local museums, small factories, bakeries, historical places, rest homes for the aged nuns, Marian shrines, churches, government buildings (the State Capitol), health agencies, the fire department, and so on. Take your children when you go on business trips or visit relatives, and "study" educational and historical sites .

Home-schooled students should be tested yearly by a nationally-standardized test. Educational and legal authorities cannot accept the fact that parents may be educating their children as well as certified teachers. The fact is that home-schooled children consistently obtain higher scores on achievement tests than children in public schools. Test scores from an objective outside testing company give assurance to the parents as well as to the child that progress is being made. A few states are passing laws that home schooling students must pass annual achievement tests. The State of Arizona insists the parent-teacher pass an achievement test!

Some home study schools, such as Seton, provide standardized tests for their students. If you are not enrolled in a home study school, or the home study school does not provide one, then you should check which test is being used in your local school district and use that particular one if possible. Order from the testing company on your school stationery. Order a catalog first and then a sample packet, which should contain a test, a manual for administering, an answer key, and a booklet explaining and categorizing the questions (so you can evaluate any weak area). The tests are secular in values, so give only the Language Arts and Mathematics sections to your child. The Social Studies and Science sections are not required by most school districts, and the questions will often not conform to your Catholic program .

The most popular test among Christian schools is the Stanford Achievement test which can be ordered from The Psychological Corporation. This test is easy for the parents to grade whereas some tests are geared for machine-scoring. Most tests are for two grade levels, but have two different forms. Order one form for the lower grade level the first year, and the other form for the higher grade level the second year.

Other tests available, in order of difficulty (in my opinion), are 

• The Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (California Testing Bureau, 
   McGraw-Hill, Del Monte Research Park, Monterey, Calif. 93940); 
• The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills (Houghton-Mifflin Company, Beacon St., 
   Boston, Mass. 02107); 
• The SRA tests (Science Research Associates, 155 N. Wacker Dr. 
   Chicago, IL 60606); 
• The National Guidance Testing Program (Educational Testing Service, 
   Princeton, N.J. 08540).

In addition to the annual achievement test, home schooling students planning to go to college should take the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) or the ACT (American College Test) in the 11th grade. These are the standardized tests which U.S. colleges use to evaluate achievement potential for freshmen applicants. Though public and private high schools (and Seton Home Study School) provide the test application forms, the tests are arranged by the individual student with the testing company. Home schooling parents can obtain the application forms for their students by first applying to the testing company on school stationery for a "School Code Number." Once you have the Code Number, you will receive information about the test, application forms, and other information useful for the college-bound student.

Because the test scores are important for the college-bound student, and most important for those seeking scholarships, home schooling students should prepare themselves for the test by studying from the review and test practice books available from local book stores. Some of these are Preparation for the Scholastic Aptitude Test by Gruber, How to Prepare for the American College Testing Program by Shapiro, How to Pass National Merit Scholarship Tests by Tarr, and Standard Written English Test for College Entrance by Gruber.

For college-bound students who want more intensive review and practice, the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Centers (and some others newly appearing on the market) offer courses consisting of four or five hours once a week for about three months. These "classroom" review sessions are supplemented with long homework assignments. The centers are located in all major U.S. cities. The course is excellent for review in Math and the Language arts, as well as giving confidence and practice in test-taking. As a rule, home schooling students do very well on college entrance tests.

A survey conducted two years ago revealed that big-name colleges and universities, as well as small private colleges, are not interested in the certification of an entering Freshman's high school. Peter H. Richardson, Director of Admissions at M.I.T. wrote in a letter to a home schooling high school student that his school tries to "look at where students are and where they might go; we worry less about the particular route that they have taken to get there." According to Tim Chapman of the Holt Association (for home schooling) "most home schoolers we know who have applied to colleges and universities have little trouble getting in." Christian colleges are enthusiastic about home schooled students because they are self-disciplined, serious about their schoolwork, and not likely to turn to drugs or unacceptable behavior. State colleges and universities are sometimes not allowed to accept a student with a diploma from a non-State-certified high school. However, they can accept these students if they pass the GED (General Educational Development Testing Program), usually called the high School Equivalency Examination. The survey indicated that Catholic colleges and universities will accept students based on the SAT, ACT, or GED scores.

For a transcript of your child's high school grades, order a packet of Record Forms from A Beka Books. Use the printed Permanent Record Form, and fill in the high school grades. This can be used for the elementary level grades also. You can attach the SAT or ACT score label on the Record Form. Type in your school name and address, and mail in a copy of this transcript to the colleges. Most colleges will never ask any questions at all, and never inquire if it is a home school.

Finally, State legislators are concerned about some areas in the schools outside of schooling. For instance, schools must be responsible for keeping Health records and make sure children have their immunizations up to date. Take this responsibility seriously and keep in touch with your physician. Legislators also insist on accurate attendance records. Make a note in your Lesson Plan book each day your child is sick; at the end of the year, record the number of days your child was "present" in class on the Permanent Record Form.

State legislators also require Fire Drills usually once a month, county authorities often twice a month. Home schools have no such requirement yet, but it would be prudent for obvious reasons to have monthly fire drills. Have a Fire Drill Exit plan on your classroom wall and conduct drills. If the classroom is upstairs, invest in a good strong rope, ready to use at a moment's notice.


An important key to success in home schooling is to relax and to have a relaxed atmosphere for your children. Your "classroom" should be decorated with maps and science posters, religious pictures and work produced by the children. Post the school calendar and the daily schedule of classes for each child to refer to. Buy decorative and religious stickers from the Christian bookstore or teacher's store, and apply to papers done well. Have other motivational items for young children.

Most important to mental progress is physical exercise. Young children's mental progress is directly related to their physical activity, as noted by doctors and teachers alike. Older students can become mentally and physically still if they sit for long periods of time. Between classes, have your children take a five-minute stretch to exercise, jump rope, or do pushups.

As you schedule your busy day, do not neglect to schedule housework. Have your children help you between classes by doing small jobs around the house. This will give them exercise and give you much-needed time. Consider other time savers, such as paper plates for breakfast. Some home schooling children make their lunches in the morning and keep them in a lunch box! If you have several children at home, schedule the classes in such a way that you can be helping each when needed the most.

Whether or not students have scheduled schoolwork or homework after regular school hours is entirely up to the parent, since home schooling children are working more intensively in any case, without the distractions and interruptions which occur daily in large classrooms. Home schooling has as its primary purpose the teaching of family values, Catholic attitudes and doctrine, an appreciation for the Catholic cultural heritage, a love for God and His laws. Secondarily, we hope to equip our children with the necessary skills to provide for themselves and their families in this world, and how rigorously this is done will depend upon the needs of the child and the interests of the parent. Some home schooling programs such as Seton, offer very demanding academic programs.

Be sure that Father is involved in the home schooling program. According to the Bible, fathers have a great deal of responsibility in the matter of teaching their children. The father can be a great help, especially in the areas of Science and Math. Most important, the children come to appreciate him as a teacher, as a man of knowledge and experience, a special perspective which gives children more respect and love for their father.

The value of daily family prayer both in and out of school hours, can not be over-emphasized. Home schooling is not easy. You cannot succeed without a great deal of spiritual help and mutual help from all family members. It requires a great deal of patience and self-sacrifice. Call on spiritual help from the Mystical Body. Have the saint for the day help you through the day. Ask friends to pray for you. Offer up Communions and sacrifices for the souls in purgatory, and ask them to help you.

Consecrate your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He promised St. Margaret Mary that everyone devoted to the Sacred Heart would receive all the graces necessary for his state in life, peace in the home, comfort in time of afflictions, and abundant blessings for undertakings. We must strive perseveringly to obtain a good Catholic education for our children. We must not be too selfish to make the necessary sacrifices. Rather, let us generously strive to obtain for them the religious education Jesus desires. Let us remember that we shall have to give an account to Jesus for every soul entrusted to our care. Remembering this, may we courageously fulfill that most important duty of every parent — to give proper spiritual instruction to our children.

This Common Faith Tract is available courtesy of Christendom Press.
You may order printed copies of this glossy-covered booklet from:

Christendom Press
Christendom College
2101 Shenandoah Shores Road
 Front Royal, VA 22630
Phone: 1-540-636-2900

This tract was written in 1983 by the President of Seton Home Study.
For the latest information and programs for Catholic home schooling, contact:

Seton Home Study
1350 Progress Drive
PO Box 396
Front Royal, VA 22630
Web site: