Teaching Intermediate Grades
Teaching the intermediate grades is easier for some mothers; teaching the little ones how to read is more demanding of time and energy. Children at the intermediate levels have the basic reading skills and are ready to progress in the subject areas beyond the fundamentals.
However, it is not as easy to discipline the children in the intermediate grades. Usually, little discipline has been learned in school. If the child begins home schooling at this level, some parents discover the basic academics have not been taught which often adds to the discipline problems as children become frustrated with review work. Parents need to work on the virtue of consistent quick obedience with this age group.
At these levels, children need to be establishing and maintaining the habit of frequent daily prayer, going to Mass, and saying the rosary. These are wonderful years for children to read the lives of the saints, and to try to apply some of the virtues to their own lives.
These are important formative years. These are the years that children treasure and won't forget. These are the years when children will readily accept the heroes and saints in good books and art.
Our main math series for fourth grade is the Rod & Staff textbook series, which offers an abundance of basic drills and word problems. Also available is the Modern Curriculum Press series for those who prefer a workbook. For children who are advanced, parents may choose the Saxon 54 textbook. Fifth and sixth graders are sent the Saxon 54 and Saxon 65, though some students, especially if they have been home schooling for awhile, or are advanced, need to move up a grade level.
It is very important to let us know which Saxon level your child needs when you re-enroll since many parents change level during the year. We try to keep track of the level in our files, but a reminder would be helpful.
The Catholic schools always have been strong on English which is why we start our children early. In these intermediate levels, much more is learned and solidified. The Catholic Loyola series has been known for its high standards and quality.
Because the Loyola workbook we have been using is suddenly out of print, Seton is in the process of producing a Catholic English workbook series for our students. This year, we are using a Seton sixth grade English workbook, but some parents have told us it is very difficult. If the workbook is too difficult, you have the option of using a textbook exercise in place of a workbook exercise for the weekly grades. We are working to revise it now.
If students begin home schooling in sixth grade, English may be the subject that proves most difficult since many of the schools are not teaching it anymore. Some students will need to go back a level or two before being able to handle the sixth grade English. Teaching with the 4th or 5th grade workbook should be sufficient rather than the whole course.
Most calls we receive regarding religion in these grades relate to a sixth grader who has not learned very much about his catechism yet. The sixth grade textbook and Baltimore Catechism #2 are a little difficult for the new student. We recommend that some students take the fifth grade course instead, which includes the #1 Catechism which contains simpler answers.
We are often asked by parents who have just started home schooling about the necessity for memorizing the catechism answers. While we do not insist on exact memorization, we do need to see answers on the test which are substantially close to the catechism. It is actually easier to memorize the answers than to find an alternative answer which is accurate and complete. One word can make the difference between correct doctrine and heresy.
The Bible histories are very important for the children to read, even if they also read the original Bible text. These stories retell the Bible in simpler language. While the one for fourth grade is very simple, the Schuster text for the 5th and 6th are classics which were used in the Catholic schools for years. The discussion questions are important, not only for review, but to provide students with an opportunity to explain what they have read in their own words.
The intermediate history texts are reprints of good Catholic texts of the classical Catholic parochial schools. Catholic schools are no longer using Catholic textbooks, so these have been out of print for some time. Eventually, we will write our own history textbooks.
Though we would like everyone to take history, it is not required at these levels. Emphasis must be on the basic subjects: language arts, math, and religion. For those who are having time problems, you may omit history for a while, or you may omit some of the supplemental assignments.
To receive a grade, it is essential to read and study the chapter and pass the test. All other assignments are optional, such as answering the questions at the end of the chapter, researching something in the encyclopedia, writing a paragraph, or reading library books. These things all help but are not essential.
The Rod and Staff Christian science series has been our basic series for a number of years, but a couple of years ago, we produced the fourth grade Catholic science text-workbook, written by Dr. Townsend from Akron University,a home schooling father himself. We recommend in this course, the students start using a highlighter for study purposes.
This year, we produced a fifth grade science text-workbook, written by a home schooling mother who has been producing Christian science books for some time. However, our parents have recommended that we move the book up to a higher grade level, that it is too difficult for fifth graders. At this point,we are moving back to the Rod and Staff for the fifth grade until we produce another fifth grade text at a lower level. We are moving the fifth text-workbook up to the seventh grade level next year.
Many assignments in science may be considered optional. The essential assignment is to read the chapter, study as needed, and pass the test. As with history, however, science can be considered an optional class if more time is needed with other subjects.
Phonics and Reading
Phonics is still being taught at Seton at the fourth and fifth grade levels. This was traditional for Catholic schools, in the constant belief that intensive phonics is the key for success in reading and reading comprehension. We have started writing our own Catholic phonics series, and have both the 4th and 5th levels now in print.
The Faith and Freedom readers are very popular at these levels because they tell stories of our Catholic immigrant families. In the sixth grade book, the stories of European Catholic families correspond to the sixth grade old world history series.
One of the things which people are discovering is that many of the customs and traditions of our ethnic heritage have been lost. These books help to make us proud of our background, and perhaps make us think about bringing some of these practices back again.
The Faith and Freedom readers are excellent in teaching reading skills through various exercises at the end of the reading selections. There is no doubt that reading as much as possible provides an excellent education. Nevertheless, at these ages, developing skills in interpretation, analyzing, outlining, putting in chronological order, and so on, are excellent skills to develop logical thinking in reading.
It is better to read fewer selections and do the exercises at the end of the reading selections than to read more of the book and omit the exercises.
The Catholic Reading for Comprehension workbooks have been written by Seton to help in thinking skills as well as learning about the Faith. The Reading-Thinking Skills workbooks provide essential exercises for understanding multiple meanings, inferring from context, verifying inferences, determining analogous relationships, outlining, organizing main ideas, and so on.
Spelling and Vocabulary
The Seton spelling series includes paragraphs about saints or Bible stories. The words are easy for most Seton students as they come from mainline spellers, but the assignments include creative sentences and dictionary work.
The Vocabulary series is written specifically for the college-bound students, so it is more difficult than the speller.
Some parents combine the courses, which is fine if the vocabulary words are used for spelling, rather than the reverse, and for the creative sentences and dictionary work.
Perhaps in the fourth and fifth grades, but surely by the sixth grade, some students, under your supervision, should be able to grade their own papers for objective type questions. Show them how to divide the number correct by the total number to obtain a percentage.
The top half of the quarter report form is for the weekly averages. Though we recommend the parents record weekly grades, if parents are too pressed for time and cannot fill these in, Seton teachers will base the report card grade on only the tests and assignments which have been submitted. Recording the grades for the weekly assignments is optional.
We continue to emphasize the importance of fathers being involved in the home schooling process. This is especially important for boys, and becomes more important as they approach adolescence.
If Father cannot teach a subject, perhaps he can simply remind the children in the morning that they must be obedient and do their best during the day. When he returns in the evening, he can ask about their work, and ask to see some samples of the work they have done. This is the best motivational tool!
Children at this level can benefit from helping a younger child. If a student has trouble reading or with math, helping to “tutor” a younger child in this area helps both the “student” and “teacher”. The older child will develop responsibility, think about how he himself learns, strengthen concepts he has learned before, increase his own skills in this area, and develop responsibility, sensitivity, perseverance, and patience.
One of the tricks in a large home schooling family is to join two of the children together for some classes. This works especially well with history, science, and religion. Both children could be put on the same history text. The younger child will study from the same book, but the discussion questions will be easier, the tests will be easier [such as orally]. Assignments after reading the chapter could sometimes be the same, such as answering the questions at the end of the chapter, but the answers for the younger need not be as complete. The course could be customized, slowed down for the younger child, or questions and assignments could be simplified.