Teaching Ninth Grade

(by Dr. Mary Clark )

High school! As some parents begin home schooling in the early years, they cringe when they think about home schooling at the high school level. Yet the ones most successful in teaching high school students are those who started their home schooling when the children were in the elementary grades.

When students begin home schooling at the high school level, parents are hopeful their children have the study skills to work somewhat independently. However, in many cases, students are lacking both study skills and motivation. They miss their friends, sports activities, music, etc.

Not only does the new beginning home schooling student at the high school level suddenly come face to face with serious academic work (paragraphs, essays, reports, critical analysis, and research reports), the student also must face himself, his own inner strengths and weaknesses. A new student may need extra time to finish his work while he grows spiritually and emotionally. Sometimes parents discover more disciplining is needed than they thought necessary.

In General

All students experience a certain amount of anxiety as they enter high school. It helps if parents take the time to go over the materials with the student in a fairly thorough manner. Before beginning the course, parents should take time in each subject to locate the lessons, survey the structure of the course, notice where assignments, keys, quizzes, tests, discussion questions, and quarter report forms are located.

Parents often feel they do not need to help their high school student very much because he already has his study skills. We recommend that for the first month or so, parents work closely with the new student to make sure that the study skills really have been attained.

Purchasing a computer is almost a necessity for high school. The amount of work which can be done and the easy high-quality output which can be achieved with a computer helps the independent learner to be proud of his accomplishments.

Daily Mass is so important for the high school student to help him deal with his own spiritual questions, his own personal development, and his academic achievement. Frequent confession is also necessary in the personal spiritual growth of a young person at this age.


Seton's English curriculum is challenging but rewarding for the Catholic high school student and his parents. In ninth grade, the student takes a semester of Grammar followed by a semester of Composition. English 9 covers more grammar, as well as spelling and vocabulary. The emphasis, however, is on analyzing good literature. The literature selections are chosen for their literary quality, their potential to sustain interest, and their potential to contribute to the growth of the student.s moral character. Discussion questions are included for each chapter, as well as more in-depth and thought-provoking questions encouraging critical thinking.

Students are encouraged to learn both writing and thinking skills. Several of our graduates in college have told us that our high school English courses make college courses easy to handle because they can concentrate on the content material rather than on writing skills.

In English, a student should be able to read the literature selection by himself. There is nothing difficult about Lilies of the Field or Where the Red Fern Grows. The problem is that because the books are easy reading, the student may gloss over the character development. Character development is emphasized in the first two titles so the student will be ready to analyze the more complex character development in Shakespeare.s Merchant of Venice.

In the English curriculum, we usually require a book report for each quarter. A list of approved books is listed, both a fiction list and a nonfiction list. Sometimes students want to read other titles, and while we are happy students want to read other books, these cannot replace the over 200 classic or semi-classic titles we have listed for more in-depth reading, thinking, and analyzing.

Students sometimes may be able to skip some of the assignments, particularly in the spelling and vocabulary. If you are convinced that your child knows the spelling words, or the vocabulary definitions, you should certainly cut down on the work assigned. If a student has been with Seton for a few years, some of the grammar assignments may not be necessary, though we do encourage you to keep the composition assignments.

Literature quizzes and discussion questions may be answered orally, or on a tape recorder if there is a time problem. However, writing out answers, and even saying them aloud, strengthens concepts in the brain. This is one subject which should be done every day, even if briefly, to keep the concepts fresh. It is more difficult to answer the literature questions if the chapters are read over a long period of time.

In the poetry sections, we especially encourage parents to be more involved in the lessons because students of today see poetry as a sort of foreign language. We need to help our children to read poetry while applying their thinking skills. It is amazing that Catholic students can read G. K. Chesterton's, The Donkey, for instance, and completely miss the deeper meaning.

Siblings who study together certainly may and should discuss the questions and answers as well as the readings. However, each student needs to be responsible for his own original work which is to be sent to Seton. Our English teachers have read enough literature that they recognize writing from a published author or critic. Copied work will be returned.

Religion 9

The ninth grade religion course takes the student through the Baltimore Catechism Number 3, which has summaries and study helps by Father Connell. It is considered a catechism classic. In addition, the syllabus itself offers supplementary apologetics lessons, which help the student of this age who is asking deeper questions about what he believes and where he is going. The apologetics material covers proofs for the existence of God, proofs for the divinity of Christ, proofs for the One True Church, proofs for the Resurrection, and so on. There is a lengthy section on the Mass, both the old Mass and the new Mass, of the Latin Rite.

This is one subject in which we encourage parents to work with the student as much as possible. Emphasize, as Father John Hardon so often points out, that it is important to memorize, but it is also important to understand what is being memorized.

Doctrines and prayers, reasons and explanations all need to be understood and internalized so that they can be lived. The important thing for our students to remember is that it does not do much good if one memorizes the doctrines but does not live the Faith. We need to constantly bring our children back to the reality of what it means to live a good Catholic life.

Our children should be attending Mass every day, if possible. A student at this age, going through some important questions in his life, needs to have the daily grace of the Blessed Sacrament. We believe that students of this age should be going to frequent confession because of the daily temptations of our society for a young teenager. It is helpful for a teenager to have a specific priest who can act as confessor and counselor on a regular basis.


Students in ninth grade can choose between Earth Science and Physical Science. The physical science course concentrates on physics and chemistry, and is more difficult. While the content in the science courses is important, the study skills learned are even more important. This is one subject in which a student should be encouraged to memorize spellings and definitions, and should struggle intellectually to grasp the workings of things. Students who sweat to understand science will be richly rewarded in their own pride of accomplishment.

Science is a good subject for students to practice note-taking skills in preparation for college. If a student wants to highlight or write in the margin, the text may be purchased. The science book, as perhaps some others, should be read aloud. Some students may actually find they learn better if they stand and walk around while they read their science. This physical activity keeps the blood flowing and helps the reader to concentrate better on the new, sometimes difficult concepts.

Parents should take the time to look over the science tests and alert the student to the kinds of questions which will be asked, as well as the detail required. Usually after one or two tests, the students do better because they are familiar with the test style.


Algebra is pretty straightforward with the Saxon text, but the student must do his assignment every day without fail. The daily practice is vital. If a student feels he is getting behind. we suggest a lesson or two on the weekend.

If the student prefers, he could do the problem sets in two sessions, such as the odd numbered ones in the morning, the even numbered ones in the afternoon. The work should be labeled clearly with the number of the problem. If the answer is correct on the answer sheet, that is great. But if the teacher needs to check a problem to find out what is wrong, she needs to find the problem quickly.

Students should include all steps in solving a problem, and not skip steps. Shortcuts result in carelessness. A homemade Algebra notebook is a great resource. It should include important rules or statements or formulas with examples of problems. It should be used daily for reference. The glossary is a helpful tool also which is too easily forgotten.

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