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#101 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 25 March 2017 - 06:08 PM

This is off topic but I thought some of you might enjoy reading this. Unless you're living a rock, you must be familiar with the "Benedict Option." This article was written by an Eastern Catholic professor and I think he makes right criticisms of Dreher's ideas. I think he touches on some of the things that were discussed on these threads.

 

 

The whole "Benedict option" smacks of just such a "transformation of life into lifestyle," and its uses and abuses of Benedict have turned that great saint into a commodity to be marketed to "anonymous and rootless [Christian] consumers," alas.

 

http://easternchrist...nn-and.html?m=1

 

The authors includes a link to this article which looks interesting.

 

https://lareviewofbo...ege-simplicity/


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#102 ElizaG

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 06:11 PM

Thanks for posting those, Ordinary Shoes.

I tend to question the first author's assertion (from MacIntyre) that the parish-centered life is a privilege of the leisured class. I'm not sure we have a "leisured class" in our area -- as nearly everyone seems pretty busy -- but church devotions and social gatherings seem to be most heavily attended by lower-income parishioners.

If anything, I'm inclined to think that the decline of US parish life went along with the shift in the Catholic population from blue-collar to white-collar. The forms of parish life that developed organically among the former group, such as St. Anthony devotions and spaghetti dinners, weren't necessarily appealing to the latter. There have been attempts to engage educated adults, e.g. by encouraging social and political activism (either liberal or conservative), or by teaching classes about the liturgy or theology (ditto), but these approaches have too many problems to get into here. I'll just point out that they're not family-oriented, in contrast to the more traditional prayer-and-food centered gatherings.

This seems to be a core problem. The churches try to engage adults as individuals, without noting that most of these adults come with children. In particular, women tend to be mainstays of parish life, but higher-income women are likely to be part of the culture of intensive parenting, which consumes a lot of time and social energy. I don't think it's realistic to expect them to abandon this -- especially since I don't seem able to abandon it myself! :-D -- but it certainly isn't doing much to help the situation.

Maybe we need to establish some new patterns of parish activity that aren't based around the 20th century model of drop-off classes, but also aren't as casual as the "kids running around at the post-novena BBQ" scene. And that appeal to the concerns of today's middle-class parents.

I can see it now: the "St. Thomas the Apostle (patron saint of construction workers) Maker Space," with a Sandplay Therapy table on the side. ROFL

Hmm... I just found a reference to a 1959 Catholic Digest article, whose author noted that parents gravitated toward parish activities that addressed "children and their problems." He went on to express concern that the church was viewed as a glorified child-care service. Of course, the latter doesn't have to follow from the former, but by the 1950s, the consumer mentality was well established. In the 1920s and 30s, there might still have been a chance for pastors to establish a different set of expectations, centered more on supporting the parents as home educators (as the LDS did, for instance).

It looks as if EFL was right on, as usual. It's too bad the NCWC took things in such a different direction.
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#103 Spudater

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Posted 04 April 2017 - 09:55 PM

I think people went to Church for entertainment a lot more too. Both my grandparents went to parish dances regularly in their youth. That was what you did for fun.
Eta: one set was middle class, the other was poor

Edited by Spudater, 04 April 2017 - 09:56 PM.


#104 ElizaG

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 12:03 PM

I was thinking about the McLuhans' concern that technology is disconnecting our minds from our bodies (aka "angelism" or "discarnate man"). It struck me that the two examples I mentioned semi-jokingly above -- group "maker space," and sand table with small figures -- are somewhat unusual for planned children's activities in that they use the whole body, standing up and moving around, while also challenging the intellect.

Sports and dancing use the mind, but not in the same way, especially with younger children who are struggling just to do the basics.

This got me taking a closer look at the first decades of the physical education movement, which I'd ignored in favor of the playground movement. It turns out to be more relevant than I expected. The early leaders of PE wrote from a holistic mind-body perspective that had just about vanished by mid-century (though, once again, it's being rediscovered in the context of therapy). They were also deeply interested in the effects of technology on humankind. Here's an interesting article from Gulick, for instance.

"Vitality and Modern Life," Physical Education, May 1896
https://books.google...AAJ&pg=RA4-PA21
(continued on p. 33)

In contrast to the famous philosophers of academic education, some of whom had sketchy real-life experience, the "philosophers of PE" were very practical men. After Gulick, one of the major figures was Jay Bryan Nash. He ran the parks and recreation department for the city of Oakland, right around the time their school board decided to try EFL's ideas. Nash wrote and edited many textbooks on physical education, and also wrote works of advice and social commentary for a general audience. I can't think of anyone in our time whose career fits that pattern.

Online Books page for Nash:
http://onlinebooks.l...ryan, 1886-1965

"Building Morale" and "Teachable Moments" look helpful so far, and "Spectatoritis" is 85 years old but seems remarkably contemporary (not sure whether to see this as depressing or reassuring...). All are very EFL-ish, I think. I wish someone would reprint them.

Anyway, this is all giving me the sense that the connection between thought and action -- especially whole-body action -- is something we really need to work on in our homeschool. Probably even the #1 thing.

Edited by ElizaG, 10 April 2017 - 01:57 PM.

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#105 ElizaG

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Posted 10 April 2017 - 02:29 PM

Just noticed that in the preface to one of his later PE textbooks, Nash gives the bulk of the credit for his thinking to Clarke Hetherington, who published little but had a great influence on those working in the field.

https://babel.hathit...view=2up;seq=10

I'd heard of Hetherington before, because he was in charge of the Oakland Summer Play School, a sort of half-day day camp that started in 1913. The experiment in the public schools took place a year or two later. Each primary class was divided into two groups that took turns between the classroom and the schoolyard. The indoor curriculum focused on the 3R's, and was based on EFL's Schools of Individual Instruction. The outdoor curriculum combined PE, manual work, and "extras," and was based on the Play School. In fact, the whole project seems to have been referred to as the "Play-School Experiment."

Interesting stuff! Sad to say, though, I have no idea how to replicate the Play School, or any of the old lovely-sounding day camp environments, in my home. Even though physical education was originally meant to be individualized (another concept that's been lost), IRL the children were always grouped by age, and the leaders didn't allow much free choice due to lack of staffing. They thought they had problems. My lack of staffing is extreme! :-D
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#106 ElizaG

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 11:33 AM

Link dump for those interested in the Oakland experiment.

Clark Hetherington's 1913 Report on the Summer Play-School:
https://books.google...AAMAAJ&pg=PA241

The public school plan was developed by the Oakland School Women's Club, a group of schoolteachers. Club meeting report, Western Journal of Education, Oct. 1914:
https://books.google...epage&q&f=false

Article about the experiment, Journal of Education, August 26, 1915
https://books.google...AJ&pg=RA1-PA153

Henry Stoddard Curtis's 1917 book, "The Play Movement and its Significance," says that this was also tried in Los Angeles and Boston (p. 40 - no details, though)
https://books.google...id=9Ug6AQAAMAAJ
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#107 ElizaG

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Posted 11 April 2017 - 10:42 PM

Looking at all these names has helped me see some more connections.

EFL started her school in Atlantic City in 1907. Around the same time, Frederic Lister Burk was trying a different experiment in individual instruction at the San Francisco State Normal School. Compared to EFL's system, Burk's is closer to present-day norms for both homeschooling and classroom teaching. Students spent most of their time at their desks, working at their own pace in specially written instructional booklets. They also took part in a regular schedule of teacher-guided "Socratic discussions" in the different subject areas. Discussion groups were made up of students who had gone beyond a certain level in the subject in question, so they'd all have the same basic knowledge.

This would certainly be convenient for a large family with closely spaced children (it's pretty much equivalent to Seton, CLE or ACE, + group discussions), and pre-EFL, I might not have objected to it. Now, all I can think is: "elevator alert!!!" And it's a sit-down elevator, too. Just as the physical education movement was recognizing the value of standing for oral recitation, the Burk system was doing away with it.

After looking into Burk's other writings, I realized that he was one of the three contributors to the series that appeared in the Ladies' Home Journal, criticizing the public schools. EFL's article got more attention (positive and negative), but Burk's proposed solution ended up being more influential. His system inspired the creators of the Winnetka and Dalton plans, and is still mentioned in books on the story of educational technology. And that's clearly what it is: a technology. Like today's electronic versions, the instruction itself is entirely ready-made and standardized. All that's individual about it is the speed at which each child completes the booklets, and the possibility of "testing out of" some of the practice sections.

Here's a question, then. We know that technologies don't spring out of nowhere. They're all rationalizations and extensions of some human activity. In many cases, they're also developments of earlier technologies. So where did Burk's system come from? Who, or what, inspired him?

It turns out that there was an earlier experiment, done in the 1880s by Preston W. Search in Pueblo, Colorado. From what I've read, he got rid of class recitations in favor of (traditional?) individual ones, and set up a different room for each subject, each having what he called a "studio or workshop" atmosphere. The Pueblo plan is generally held to be the first attempt at "individual instruction" since graded schools became the norm. According to historians, it did influence Burk, and, therefore, all those who followed him -- though this connection often went unacknowledged.

Was EFL's (mysterious) approach to teaching older children also influenced, in part, by Search? It seems quite likely to me. His book "An Ideal School" was published just as she was starting her teaching career, and much of his thinking is a close fit with hers.

"Individual Teaching: The Pueblo Plan," from Educational Review, 1894: https://babel.hathit...iew=2up;seq=168
An Ideal School (1901): https://archive.org/...chool00seargoog

In "Educating the Child at Home," she recommends Edgar Swift's "Mind in the Making" (1908). This book includes a description of the Pueblo plan.

https://archive.org/...ngast03swifgoog

Another popular approach at that time was the Batavia plan, which kept students in age-grade classes, but divided the teacher's time between whole-class teaching and one-on-one coaching. This seems to have had a lasting influence on the public schools, in the sense that it became the teacher's responsibility to spend part of her time helping the weaker children catch up.

Letter about the Batavia System, The School Journal (1904): https://books.google...AAMAAJ&pg=PA679
"The Batavia System of Individual Instruction," by John Kennedy (1914): https://books.google...id=9TyjAAAAMAAJ

Whether or not EFL's school methods were influenced by Search or even Kennedy, I think it's fair to see all three of them as part of the first wave of deliberate attempts at "individual instruction" in a modern school context. These systems (Pueblo 1884, Batavia 1898, EFL 1907) focused on the development of the individual, used standard materials (as far as I can tell), and included old-style face-to-face lessons and recitations.

By contrast, the second wave (Burk 1907, Dalton 1919, Winnetka 1919) tended to use special "self-teaching" materials, put a high value on having the children practice adult-style social relationships with one another, and did away with a lot of the traditional teacher-student interaction.

Hmm.

The more I read about the Pueblo plan, the more it appeals to me. As a homeschooling family, we aren't going to have a dozen rooms with specialist teachers, but I think we could substitute the "teaching the same subject to everyone at the same time" approach that's worked for some families (I wish we had a better name for this! :-) ). It would prevent the chaos of unsupervised children, and also ensure that, academically speaking, nothing and nobody would fall through the cracks. Not my older children, not my younger ones, and not entire subject areas. (Modern language, I'm looking at you... ;-) )

I suppose the biggest challenge would be the fact that we'd have a wider range of ages in one room. The older ones need more quiet, and sometimes longer work periods, and the younger ones need play breaks. Each of our "school areas," indoors or out, would have to be small enough for me to really see everyone, but large enough that we wouldn't be breathing down each other's necks. But this is something I have to deal with anyway. :-P


[ETA: added link & fixed wording]

Edited by ElizaG, 12 April 2017 - 10:13 AM.


#108 ElizaG

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 10:43 AM

G. Stanley Hall was a supporter of the Pueblo plan, and other early efforts at "individual instruction." Here are his comments on a paper read by Kennedy at the 1901 NEA meeting.

----

PRESIDENT G. STANLEY HALL of Clark University. — This is the most important question that has been discussed at this session, and the most important of the questions now before the educational public. I have recently read the manuscript of a new book by Superintendent Search, of Holyoke, Mass., in which he sets forth his views on individual instruction, with which you are somewhat familiar. Years of experience have seasoned the views of Mr. Search, and his present discussion is not without merit. It is utterly impossible to interest anybody in the feasibility of that scheme who is interested in the mechanics of our school system. Our mechanism is well-nigh perfect, and many give much time to still further perfecting it. We have reached a standpoint in our knowledge of the child where we can say that a change in the mechanics of our schools must be made to suit his needs.

The question of individuality is a vastly important thing, and we need to realize more the misfortune of retarding the better half of the child. There is an inspiration in this kind of individual work. And inspiration in teaching, a passion for teaching, is a great thing in the teacher.

There is also a financial argument here. A woman guided by her divine instinct is far more effective and worth more money for being so guided. Individual instruction will tend to bring this out in the teacher.

All that amounts to anything in my work is not in lecturing, not in class effects, but when I sit down in my study and talk with a single young man, and there move upon him. Tho I may not know of the fruit, it is a blessed privilege to feel that the seed so planted will grow.

I wish to express a fundamental conviction. Without losing anything that is good, we are to see a radical transformation in our school work thru more service to the individual child. The lines followed by the party of order are good, but no less glorious is the work of those who are guided by the idea of the importance of the individual. There is one compass that always points toward the pole of human destiny, and that is the developing of the individual child up to its highest maturity. When this new time arrives, we shall have less mechanism, but we shall have more of the thing that inspires the teacher who gets into close contact with the individual child. That is the supreme end to which everything else will be subordinated.

https://books.google...AAMAAJ&pg=PA301

-----

His comment about people being "interested in the mechanics of our school system" reminds me of EFL's claim that her system was rejected because of the textbook racket. It's easy to see that they would prefer Burk's booklet approach.

Ironically, Burk was a PhD student of G. Stanley Hall's, so he would have benefited from that one-to-one guidance that Hall described above. How he got to the point of considering it unnecessary, I don't know.

#109 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 12:55 AM

These connections are so interesting. I remember when I first began dabbling in education history (I've never gotten past the dabbling stage so I don't know much), I was SHOCKED to discover that schools had not always been like the schools that I attended. And further, that modern schools hadn't even been around that long. I suppose that's kind of an indictment of modern education right there - most of us *indoctrinated* in that system can't imagine a different way of learning unless exposed to something different.

 

 


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#110 ElizaG

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Posted 27 April 2017 - 01:11 PM

Hi, all. I fell down a rabbit hole, reading about the history of physical education. :-)

As mentioned above, public school PE programs were originally supposed to be tailored to each student. Of course, there were major practical problems, even more so than with individualized academics. (I'm trying to picture a "PE study hall.") They started using group programs as a stop-gap, until someone could figure out a solution. Meanwhile, the college PE major was rapidly becoming a magnet for students who were particularly athletic and -- shall we say -- not into "book learning." Then the 1930s arrived, with their emphasis on the value of group work for its own sake, so the whole question was pretty much set aside.

The result is that we have an emphasis on group athlethic classes for the "normal" children, and individualized programs only at the extremes: coaching for the stars, and therapy for those diagnosed with SN. This sort of division would have been anathema to the PE pioneers. They believed that physically normal children were practically non-existent in modern US society, due to the unnatural conditions of school and work life. The job of the PE specialist was to find ways to make up for this.

There are also questions about the overall developmental appropriateness of many PE activities. The concerns can be psychological and social -- e.g., as we discussed earlier, evidence suggests that children aren't naturally drawn to team sports until around the cusp of adolescence. They can also be physical, as in this 1920s account of comments by James Naismith.

"Basketball Evil" Cited by Inventor of Game
https://books.google...AAMAAJ&pg=PA597

I've been thinking along these lines for a while, especially in relation to my eldest DS, who spends most of his focused PE time in activities that emphasize lower body strength and agility. We recently got a Kinect video game system, which uses a camera to detect your position, so that the character on the screen makes pretty much the same movements you're making. (These systems are used by physical therapists, so I figured it might be helpful for my younger child who has a neurological disorder, as well as providing an exercise option for the others when "mommy's tired.") In the first game they tried, a bunch of balls come flying at you, and you try to knock them back by hitting and kicking them. DS did very well at this, but he chose to kick almost 100% of the time. I asked him to try doing a couple of rounds just using his arms, and he didn't do nearly as well.

This is all very interesting, to the point that I might consider studying it formally in the long term, but the master's programs in our area are geared to very specific occupations -- PE teachers, OTs, practitioners of proprietary therapies, etc. -- so they're not quite what I'm looking for. I'm most interested in mind-body connections of all kinds, and how to provide individualized support for normal development. For now, I guess I just need to keep reading and (mostly) experimenting on my children.

Edited by ElizaG, 27 April 2017 - 03:57 PM.


#111 LostCove

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Posted 28 April 2017 - 08:19 PM

Thanks for the interesting update on your trip down the rabbit hole, ElizaG. Reading it, I was thinking about how the first few decades of the twentieth century produced such a lot of interesting commentary on the perils of modern conditions, but at the same time, I wonder what we should learn from their failures to successfully implement their proposed solutions. I think maybe there's something about the scale of everything - EFL's ideas are challenging but workable because they can be implemented right in the family, but once you start to move outside the household, the scale of modern life and corresponding appeal of "efficiency" seems to be a big obstacle (whether in fact or just ideology seems open to debate). Not sure if that makes sense, but don't have the available brain cells to articulate it better at the moment.

 

Lately, all my brain cells have been devoted to consistent implementation, darn it. It's been working, but I totally follow the pattern ltlmrs mentions upthread about periods of ships tightly run followed by just needing to ignore all the things for a while so I can think all the thoughts, so I'm expecting a crash any day now. :001_rolleyes: I keep hoping I will some day hit on a way of combining these two into some kind of sustainable pattern for daily living...maybe when there's no longer a toddler in the house? I dunno, maybe it's not as big a deal as I tend to think it is? If tidal homeschooling can be a thing, can tidal mothering? Well, maybe not, when I put it that way...sigh.

 

Anyhoo, here are some notes from the daily grind of late:

 

The 8yo and I are reading Miles Standish together, but it just wasn't doing it for us, memorization-wise, so I let him pick something out from our Longfellow volume to work on memorizing independently. He picked out "The Skeleton in Armor," of course, works on it himself, and then recites it for me everyday (we've also done some light erudition and copywork from it, but most of those activities are still focused on Miles Standish). I've been way more intentional about working on his posture, enunciation, expression, etc, than I had been. I even pulled out some classic vocal warm-ups from high school drama class, which he has gotten a big kick out of. Raising expectations around that has been a very good thing - and I should mention that DH has been a great helper for this. Every few nights, everyone recites what they've been working on for dad and gets some non-mom feedback.

 

Eldest has also finished all of EFL's arithmetic work! After all kinds of dithering and consulting Hunter, we've started on Ray's Intellectual. My Montessori bead cabinet is going to DH's school, and I ordered an AL abacus to supplement our pebbles black beans. I think we'll use Ray's for the next year or so, and then revisit the question for 5th grade - I suspect at that point we will switch to some modern, written-to-the-student curriculum so that I can really throw my energies into Latin. ltlmrs, if you're around, do you have any thoughts on what to do at that point? ElizaG, I think at one point you said your upper elementary kids were (only?) doing LoF - how has that worked out?

 

I've been working on a Latin plan, and we're going to use GSWL this year and then start LLPSI (Tranquility7 here has some incredibly helpful advice from her experience using it), supplemented with some of Fr. Pavur's stuff, various vintage Latin readers, and Evan der Millner's audio resources. LLPSI seems to work to get a lot of people reading actual Latin, and I think I can pull off teaching with it, so we're just going to try it out and see how it goes. I also just today ordered Reggie Foster's new book - I'm particularly intrigued by his "sheets," collections of Latin texts from many different authors and historical periods. There's a second book in the works that focuses on using Cicero's letters to illustrate the grammatical principles covered in the first book. 

 

(Incidentally, we had dinner with a really wonderful Jesuit earlier this spring, and I asked him about his high school experience in the early 70s. Both Latin and Greek were still in the curriculum at his school - he said it was "marvelous." He told me the authors they read and I wish I had written it down - as I recall, they started with Caesar and went from there, as one did.)

 

The 6yo has started EFL arithmetic and Hiawatha. Separate poems for everyone will probably not work over the long-term, but for now I can manage (although, actually, the 4yo is usually hanging around during her lessons anyway since they are basically inseparable and even the 2yo demands a turn to recite something that sounds like "by da shurz ditchee doomee"). I'm trying to start with better elocution habits with her from the very beginning.

 

I haven't really attempted to implement EFL's reading instruction suggestions - I just DIYed something Montessori-ish and now am having her read me a few pages from the Treadwell readers every day. That's all pretty simple and intuitive for me at this point, so I'm just going to keep going with it for the rest of the kids unless we hit any issues. With the 8yo, after he had been reading fluently for a while, we did a quick run through conventional phonics and syllabification using some of ElizabethB's materials, which I think was fine, but maybe not even necessary for him, since he's a natural speller. So I may or may not do that again with his sister in a year or two - maybe I'll just use parts of the Blue Backed Speller.

 

Some of it is temperament - this child has preferred to be outside since she could open a door and take herself out - but I do think she's also benefited from having more observation lessons (even as lamely done as I have done them) than her older brother has. Just this week, she dissected a magnolia flower and brought it all to me to exclaim over. I got all excited and pulled out HONS (of course, Comstock being from upstate NY, the magnolia isn't in there) and some other reference books - she was interested for a minute and then ran back out to the chickens, but now I know more about the differences between gymnosperms and angiosperms. 

 

I still wonder if we should be doing more formal content subjects, but I can't settle on what exactly I think we should be doing, so we're not yet. I did give the 8yo a comp book dedicated to "research," and he's written a few things in it. We re-arranged where we're keeping our school material and I might put a blank timeline up on the wall for us to start writing on. Maybe.

 

Well, I feel like there was one other thing I was going to mention, but it's time for me to head home and see if DH left me any ice cream. :laugh:


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#112 ElizaG

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 04:32 PM

That sounds wonderful, LostCove! Good for you. :-)

It just occurred to me that we now have three who are in the "EFL black hole." This, not *just* flakiness, is probably most of the reason I'm still searching so much.

Speaking of which, Superintendent Search might turn out to be almost as big a discovery for our family as EFL. He's certainly vanished almost as completely. After his success in Pueblo, he moved to Los Angeles, and attempted to implement his system there, apparently with disastrous results. IDK if this was due to the scale effects you mentioned, or just that LA is messed up. Maybe some of both. Reminds me of Jamie Oliver's failure to reform their school lunches. :-D

His son Frederick became a famous cellist and composer -- one might even say a "prodigy," but one who earned the money for his first cello at age 10, by selling chickens. He ended up living in Carmel, and was the music director at the Del Monte Hotel, where so many of Kathleen Norris's characters met with near-disaster. ;-) Because of this family connection, there's a box of Preston W. Search's papers in -- of all unlikely places -- the music library at UC Berkeley. Maybe I can get a local contact to Search through it for us. (Sorry...)

Anyway, I've started reading "An Ideal School," and I do think EFL was influenced by his system. Her description of the math lessons is similar to his, even down to the language (e.g., "suggestions," "a piece of work"). Unlike her, though, he has a lot to say about adolescence. His thinking on that subject is generally in tune with G. Stanley Hall's, without all the over-the-top parts. I'm encouraged by the fact that his son turned out to be both a gifted adolescent and a functional adult.

Search refers to his ideal high school as the "gymnasium," not so much for the connection with classical education as for the emphasis on "expenditure of potential energy in kinetic exercises." (I'm envisioning this as including not just PE, but, say, Fr. Donnelly-style oral language work.)

"The studies and media of the gymnasium or high school are choices in the sciences, grammar, Latin (and possibly Greek), French, German, literature, history, algebra and geometry, design, creation, play, gymnastics, music, and art. (...)

Owing to the excessive growth during this period, the adolescent needs an abundance of wholesome food, omitting confections and pastries, nine hours of sleep with no overindulgence, well-directed occupation, the storage of the mind with good things, plenty of fresh air and exercise, and almost constant companionship."

https://archive.org/...ge/n10/mode/2up

Argh, yes, the confections. :-P Easter candy did a number on all of us, but especially my older ones. Robinson was right about that.

This all seems compatible with EFL, and much of it also lines up with Montessori's tentative adolescent plan. The second link below has a chart that compares 0-12 "normalization" with 12-24 "valorization."

http://liveandlearnf...-school-part-1/
http://liveandlearnf...-school-part-2/

The "almost constant companionship" might be the hardest part for homeschoolers, though, especially with current trends. Siblings are sometimes the answer, but not always, especially for the eldest. And adult mentors are hard to find. Recently, I've thought seriously about enrolling a couple of my children in neo-classical co-ops or part-time schools. I might have done it -- despite my academic objections -- if there were a Catholic option that went through high school. But there aren't any around here, which seems to tip the balance for our family.

The common thread that stands out to me with Search, Montessori, and EFL, is that the adolescent needs to find his or her own meaningful work. Just like everyone else does, but even more so. And this work is tied to the needs of the family and community, which doesn't have to mean primarily farm work. Even a family farm, in itself, isn't likely to meet all of the adolescent's needs. (The Erdkinder programs have loads of specialized teachers and mentors.)

For our circumstances, it would make sense to encourage work that involves technology, or ecology, or helping others in various ways. Or some combination of the above. And we're sort of already leaning this way, though I haven't been viewing it as something central. Which it does seem to be. We just need to find more ways to make connections with other people nearby.

Of course, the children can also put real effort into religion and the arts, but those are more "schola" than work. At this age, while they're still figuring out their goals and abilities, they seem to need both.

So... I guess I'm getting a bit more of a sense of what we're supposed to be doing. Not a moment too soon. :-P

Edited by ElizaG, 30 April 2017 - 05:25 PM.


#113 ElizaG

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Posted 01 May 2017 - 11:54 AM

Sorry, I forgot to answer your question about Fred.

My very math-keen 6th grader has been doing well with it, but we've chosen to alternate between Life of Fred and Art of Problem Solving, i.e.:

LoF Pre-A sequence -> AoPS Pre-A -> LoF Beginning Algebra -> now starting AoPS Algebra

This is partly for reinforcement, and partly for slowing-down purposes. (Said child might be going to brick & mortar high school, so getting too far ahead would cause problems.)

The other child -- who's always been a bit more puzzling, math-wise -- *seemed* to be doing well, but did poorly on a "Let's Go Learn" online test after completing LoF Beginning Algebra. This turned out to be due to a combination of 1) missing a couple of key points in pre-algebra, and 2) not checking work properly, so these gaps weren't noticed and dealt with.

Both children seem to have trouble understanding how **AND WHY** to check their work, even after repeated explanations. Dear children, if you don't understand why your answer is wrong and the book's is right, *please figure out why,* re-do the problem from the beginning, and ask for help if needed. Don't just think, "oh, hmm, I got it wrong... :-( ," and copy down the answer from the back!

Of course, this is largely my fault for not supervising enough. Some children this age can look like they're able to work independently, but when the parent's back is turned, they forget all the instructions and basically drift into space. :-/ There also seems to be a massive failure of common sense, at times. **THE POINT OF ALL THIS IS TO LEARN HOW TO DO THE PROBLEMS, NOT JUST TO HAVE THE RIGHT ANSWERS WRITTEN DOWN!!!** Ahem.

From what I read on the boards, this is all fairly normal." I wonder, though. Maybe our younger children will do better. I hope so!

Anyway, I didn't want to just re-do Fred (in case the narrative style was contributing to spaciness...), and this child isn't keen on AoPS, so I decided to try the Math Rescue DVD course from Systematic Mathematics. It's meant as a remedial course for older teens and adults, to fill in any gaps and build a very solid foundation for algebra, but I thought it might suit our purposes. One thing that didn't occur to me was that, while video-based instruction might be better for the child's understanding, it makes it very hard for the parent to keep track of the child's progress. So now I have even less of an idea what's going on. :-P OTOH, child likes it, and has asked to use the same series for algebra, so I guess we'll give it a try. It's not a very popular program, but seems to get excellent results, from what I've read over the years.

Unfortunately, right after I bought the materials, Systematic Mathematics closed their online shop. It's not clear if they'll re-open in the future, but for now, their courses aren't available for purchase.

My next two are going to use the complete Fred elementary series as a supplement, starting around age 8-10. I'm going to use this as an opportunity to teach study skills, so that they're working independently by the time we get to Goldfish or so. We'll see how it goes.

I've thought many times that it would be more efficient just to have them all use Saxon. But then they wouldn't have so many opportunities to mess everything up, LOL.

Edited by ElizaG, 01 May 2017 - 12:04 PM.


#114 LostCove

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 09:05 AM

Oops, premature post, will be back later.


Edited by LostCove, 04 May 2017 - 09:06 AM.


#115 LostCove

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 10:39 AM

ElizaG, thanks for the info about Fred and what y'all have being doing, math-wise, also for the recap of Search and reflections on adolescence - some of this reminds me of things DH related from a book about the founder of Deerfield he read a few years ago. Maybe we'll have to consider boarding school as a solution for the "constant companionship" problem.   :laugh:

 

I remembered the other thing I was going to mention, but now already have a pretty rambling update on, which was grammar. So, after spending some time a while back experimenting with combining some of EFL's suggestions with using Montessori grammar symbols to code our poem, I stopped because I thought that it was just too difficult and confusing, trying to use literary examples with often quite complex poetic syntax to illustrate and learn basic parts of speech. Surely it made more sense to start with the simplest of sentences that isolated each new part of speech until it was understood. I had decided to drop grammar for the rest of the term and then pick a simple program to use to get us through enough grammar basics to start Latin next year. 

 

But now I'm rethinking again, because of the coincidence of two things. Ossa Latinintatis Sola came in the mail on Monday, and, whoa, is it interesting. I haven't yet come across anything that spells out a method of teaching grammar with examples from real literature the way this does. I'm just scraping the surface of the book itself so far, but here's a pretty interesting exchange between one of Foster's students and successor at the Vatican and a classics professor who has a new book out on ancient methods of teaching Latin to Greek speakers that gives a feel for some of the key aspects of Foster's methods and how they fit in with the history of Latin-learning (although it would be nice if the folks in this conversation had at least acknowledged that there is, um, a continuing pedagogical tradition after the classical period).

 

So, I had various things from the introduction to the Ossa kicking around in my brain, including this passage -

Therefore, the objective of these pages is to get people into immediate contact with and understanding, love, and use of the entire Latin language in all its literary types and periods of time and authors. Personal practice has been that, by eliminating terminology and all kinds of preambles to the language and literature, people can have access immediately to real solid, natural Latin, which they can then imitate and use and find in these infinite authors and works of Latin in the world. 

 

So the emphasis will be on what things mean, not on what they are called; on how the language functions, not on some sort of artificial rules it allegedly follows. Concentration will be directed to the immediate practice of Latin and the natural learning of it by means of a self-teaching approach which maintains contact with real solid Latin that has existed in this world for all this time. 

 

- when we came across this line in Miles Standish - "Merrily sang the birds, and the tender voices of women/Consecrated with hymns the common cares of the household" - and the 8yo said, "This makes no sense." So we talked about the vocabulary, and he still didn't get it, and it dawned on me - he doesn't understand what function each of these words are playing in this sentence - we need to examine the grammar! I did not do a great job of talking through it (and I already see that I should have used the first half of the first line as an introductory example because it is so much simpler), I think partly because I was too focused on the terminology rather than really talking about the function of the words (Foster actually doesn't use the common terminology in discussing grammar - he talks about the function "by-with-from-in" rather than the ablative, for example), but it did suddenly click with me how this could work.

 

So before I had been teaching definitions and then trying to apply those to our poem indiscriminately. The result was that when the poetic syntax was simple, DS could do it, when it wasn't, he usually couldn't. What if instead, I taught grammar as we needed it to actually understand what we were reading.

 

Of course, when you're studying a foreign language, that is needed basically from the beginning for the most basic parts of speech. But with the vernacular, you really don't need explicit grammar instruction to understand a lot of what you read or have read aloud to you. And when you do start to find that looking at the grammar can be an aid to understanding, maybe you don't actually always need to start with things broken down very incrementally, but can start with a longer, more complex and thus more confusing sentence. In addition to keeping front and center the way that grammar can actually be a tool to convey and receive meaning, not a system to apply (art vs. science), this approach has the advantage of keeping the student in touch with the real language as used in history to communicate real things, as Foster says about Latin, instead of a contrived and grammatically simplified language. 

 

This approach would seem to require something different from the teacher and student, though. Generally speaking, from what I've seen, in the definitions-first way, the teacher explicitly teaches the definitions of the basic parts of a sentence, say, probably with a few simple sentences to illustrate, and then the student is expected to analyze sentences in a series of exercises of gradually increasing complexity over perhaps a very long period of time. So in going through these two lines of Longfellow, I found myself trying to lead my 8yo to identify the subject, verb, and object (which he has had some explicit instruction in) with a series of questions, but it was just too much for him at this point - this is what we had tried and quit in the fall. And it makes sense - if he could do it himself, he wouldn't really need to look at the grammar to understand the sentence in the first place, right? To put it in Montessori language, he's still in the first period. So, instead, I need to explain the grammar myself - emphasizing function, not just classification - and the work of the student would have to be something else - maybe the chreiai type exercises discussed in article above, Kilgallon-style sentence composing, or maybe just copywork/dictation. 

 

I don't think this is actually all that different from how we've discussed some of this in the past, by the way, but it's just been the next step for me, not an natural teacher, in the iterative process of figuring out how to actually DO this integrated language study thing, pulling back together the bits and pieces that can still be found here and there, so I share in case it helps anyone else.


Edited by LostCove, 04 May 2017 - 10:40 AM.

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#116 ElizaG

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 12:28 PM

Thanks for explaining your thought processes, LostCove.

Have we talked much about Fr. Stephenson's Latin books? They're from the 1930s, and seem to be his attempt to set down an example of the traditional pedagogy in textbook form, much as Fr. Donnelly did for English and rhetoric.

There are two books: a grammar (including background information and advice on conversational Latin), and an anthology of Latin literature. The excerpts are fairly short, and are taken from a wide range of sources - classical authors to 20th century papal encyclicals. They're sorted by pedagogical order, not chronologically. Each page of the anthology is divided into four parts:

1) the original selection;
2) the same selection, with minor changes to make it conform to the author's standards for "correct Latin style" (which he acknowledges is arbitrary);
3) the English translation;
4) notes, including new vocabulary and points of grammar, keyed to the relevant section of the grammar book.

In theory, these materials could be used by an absolute beginner, through self-study (though of course you wouldn't get the conversational aspect). I suppose that's the only way we're going to use them, unless we find an adventurous Latin tutor. None of the ones I've spoken to so far are comfortable venturing beyond standard current textbooks.

Meanwhile, my eldest has been using both Artes Latinae and Oerberg, and is pretty happy with this, but definitely prefers LL over AL. I've been checking what limited written work there is, but do have a bit of a creeping fear that we'll end up in a similar situation to Algebra. Worst case scenario, I guess we could just start over with Henle in 9th, and would still be "caught up" with the people who've been following MP or MODG recommendations for years. (Just typing that makes my head hurt.)

Eldest child is much more keen on learning Greek than Latin anyway, and finished the Hupogrammon independently a while back. #2 is doing the book a bit more slowly, with my help, though of course it's new to me too. That should be finished in a few weeks, and then the three of us are going to start doing Greek together. I have no idea when, though. One of the children has energy all the time, but the other is slow to get going in the morning, and I'm wiped out in the evening. (Did I mention we're expecting another little one? I couldn't let you and ltlmrs have all the fun, LOL. ;-) )

#2 hasn't even started formal Latin yet; we really should get going on that as well. I've started to feel as if Greek actually needs more of my personal attention, though. There are plenty of online classes and local tutors for Latin, and it's part of the high school programs we're looking at for some of the children. The way they're teaching it isn't ideal, obviously, but at least they'd get more of a foundation than I did. If they chose, they could supplement it with Fr. Pavur's books, colloquia, Latin camps, etc. With Greek, though, unless they learn it at home, they're unlikely to get the foundation at all. (Kolbe doesn't even *offer* Greek in high school! Head is hurting again.)

Between the lack of outside support, and the ongoing SN and habit remediation issues with my older ones, I'm forced to apply Hunter's concept of triage, even if it's at a higher level than usual.

Anyway, I'd be happy to share more from Fr. Stephenson's books, if you're interested. I'd also be happy to share copies of the actual books (which are public domain), if I can get around to it. "Working with scanned images" is going to be lesson #1 in our adolescent Montessori curriculum. :-)

Edited by ElizaG, 04 May 2017 - 12:31 PM.

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#117 winterbaby

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 12:54 PM

Hi, can I ask Fr. Stephenson's full name, and what his books are called? Very interested.



#118 ElizaG

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 04:23 PM

Sure -- the author's name is Rev. S. M. (Stephen Mathias) Stephenson. He was from Hungary, and taught at the Pontifical Academy Josephinum in Ohio.

The anthology is called "Stylistic," and was published in 1939. It's a large hardcover book with a dark blue cover.

The grammar book has a really long title that I can't bring myself to type out right now, but it's (partially!) listed on Amazon, even though they don't have any copies at the moment.

https://www.amazon.c.../dp/B00088ZKPO/

My copy of the grammar is kind of odd. It's spiral-bound and appears to have been typed by hand, but it also contains some loose sheets with the same material, in the same typeface as "Stylistic." I'm guessing those are proofs from a published edition. The bound pages were obviously used, and have a lot of underlining and notes from the previous owner (whose name I can't recall). That's part of the reason I've been putting off scanning it. If someone has access to a library copy, it might be an improvement. I just looked at Worldcat and they show 4 copies in typically random locations.

http://www.worldcat....r=brief_results

Going by the title, though, this looks like the grammar and anthology combined. Ours are separate books. Curiouser and curiouser.

There's also a very brief description in Fr. Kobler's "Bibliography of Spoken Latin," which is available online.

https://eric.ed.gov/...ler&id=ED013565

Google Books turns up a reference in the Classical Folia journal from the 1950s, but I can't access that one.

Both Fr. Kobler's bibliography and the Classical Folia article say that Fr. Stephenson's approach was similar to that of his fellow Hungarian, Arcadius Avellanus. I looked into Avellanus a while ago. All I can remember is that his materials were secular, he wrote a lot in Latin himself, and he still has a bit of a following today.
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#119 winterbaby

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Posted 04 May 2017 - 04:57 PM

Very interesting, thanks. I hate it when useful things are truly rare! I wish there was a process for requesting specific books to receive priority for scanning and uploading. Things I view on Google Books seem to favor a few major libraries, so while it's a godsend, it ultimately doesn't take you too far off the beaten path.


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#120 ElizaG

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Posted 03 June 2017 - 01:14 PM

(Changed mind and deleted for privacy reasons)

Hope you are all well!

Edited by ElizaG, 05 June 2017 - 10:19 PM.


#121 ltlmrs

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Posted 22 June 2017 - 01:35 PM

Hi all!  Popping on here for a few minutes with baby asleep in sling at the library.  Look forward to catching up with my reading of all the posts since February.

 

On a brief personal note, my dad died and the baby was born and I discovered that I had been living in complete denial for a couple of years.  Definitely did not have things together no matter how many illusions I had built up for myself.  Oddly enough, it was Little Man's Godmother/my midwife who pointed this out to me the day after I gave birth, bless that woman.

 

On school side, we went pretty much full blown Robinson for several months and Ladybug survived and even thrived.  But, all three kids are really glad to have Mama back, lol.  A few resources I've discovered that I wanted to share in case y'all haven't seen them yet (and since I'm always behind everyone else, I wouldn't be surprised if this is old news, lol):

 

The Writer's Workshop - a modern day version of Fr. Donnelly's writing texts from everything I can tell.  I still think I prefer Fr. Donnelly but this might work for someone who's interested in something engaging for a 21st century teen.  This gentleman was a guest lecturer for one of DH's classes but it was on literature and not composition and DH didn't tell me ahead of time that he would be in town, so I missed my chance to pick his brain about the connection his work might have with Fr. Donnelly.

 

Learning Grammar Through Writing - I've been thinking about how to approach grammar as Ladybug gets older and although we've done some grammar work in Russian it's been almost 0 with English.  This book seems like it will be a good fit in another year or two when she's ready for formal grammar.  The premise is that the teacher corrects a composition while writing codes for the mistakes and the student looks up what the codes stand for, learning the grammar topics along the way.  This prevents needless rehashing of topics already mastered, avoids workbooks and is ultimately pretty independent.  Plus it's cheap!  I guess one could use any grammar handbook, but I like how uncluttered and simple this one is and how the topics are paired down to the most important.

 

I've rediscovered Ruth Beechick's Language and Thinking for Young Children for use with Little Man and Itsy, specifically her chapter on poetry has some poems that are dealt with in a similar manner to EFL's guidelines for three and four year olds.

 

Oh and I think I've figured out spelling!  As mentioned before, Ladybug was having trouble with retention using EFL's methods and conventional programs and actually applying them in writing and not just during a spelling test.  We used Modern Speller for a while but the sentences were like nails on a chalkboard to me.  I finally found that I can have an effective and independent spelling plan that uses the poetry and Bible passages we are memorizing after reading Spelling: Structure and Strategies by Paul Hanna.  ElizabethB recommended it and I finally broke down and got a copy.  Now we use whatever passage is convenient, I pick a sound that I want her to cover and she writes out all the ways that sound is spelled in that passage.  So, let's say I want her to work on long a words, she makes columns in her spelling notebook for a, a-e, ay, ai, ... and fills them in with words from the passage and that's her spelling list for the week.  It's inductive, not overwhelming in terms of quantity and it helps her form her own spelling rules though I do add in the Spalding rules since we've been doing Spalding for so long.  But, miracle of miracles, she's actually thinking about spelling when she writes for pleasure!  She actually stops to consult me about how to spell words that she doesn't know for sure instead of just guessing and sometimes I'll hear her talking to herself as she tries to figure out what the symbols are for the phonemes she's hearing.

 

Oh and the discussion on tact is revolutionizing my parenting.  Meeting the ideal still seems unattainable :nopity: but at least I'm trying and even that's helping.

 

All for now!  :seeya:


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#122 ElizaG

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Posted 04 July 2017 - 02:44 AM

Very sorry to hear about your father, ltlmrs. Will say a prayer for the repose of his soul.

Congratulations on your new bundle! Thanks for the links; I'll check them out.

I'm in full-on "elderly grand multipara" mode over here. No sign of major complications, but a heap of supposedly minor ones that are seriously limiting what I can do. Difficulty sleeping (and thus thinking), eating many things, lifting, bending, moving quickly, sitting, standing, etc. All very normal, apparently, LOL.

The best plan seemed to be to put the children in a bunch of afternoon classes for PE and the arts, and only require minimal schoolwork, along with their necessarily increased chore loads. It's working out okay, though driving while sleep-deprived is no fun (thank goodness all the classes are nearby). On the up side, the time seems to be going by very quickly. I hope to get us back on a strong language and literature path in the fall.

#123 ltlmrs

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Posted 19 July 2017 - 09:48 AM

Hey, all!  Finally got a chance to catch up through the thread!  Congratulations, ElizaG!  Will be praying for you.

 

I followed the physical activity/constant companionship rabbit trails with interest.  We’ve run into issues with Ladybug for lack of both.  The answer for the first has been soccer at the Y despite my ideological anti-soccer mom stance, lol.  The issue has been that the kids at church will usually play soccer after mass.  The boys esp. get really into it and bring clothes/shoes to change into, but the girls who can play usually join in too, even in their dresses.  But, those who play after mass play in leagues so it can get pretty competitive, though the kids are all very good natured.  By signing Ladybug up for a few seasons at the Y, I’m hoping she’ll get enough practice to be able to participate without being too much of a hindrance to the other players.  Occasionally someone will set up a volleyball net as well and she seems to like that better because there will usually be a couple of dads leading the game who are very good at including even the littlest children who want to participate.  Sometimes some of the smaller boys will bring their tballs and Little Man joins in that.  It is nice to see that some sort of pick up sports culture is being resurrected.

 

On the companionship side we’re blessed in many ways because there are a fair number of cousins nearby and we are part of a small but fairly vibrant parish.  Father likes to make sure that parish activities are a good mix of “cerebral” and “family,” so he schedules talks but also movie nights and barbeques.  But, even with that the issue has been commuting to visit cousins and commuting to church so that’s not the same thing as “constant,” kwim?  And the fact is I can tell that Ladybug is lonely.  The middle two don’t have that issue because they are close in age and play together constantly.  And I know Ladybug’s not alone in her difficulties, we know several homeschooled eldest girls from large families who have had to deal with fairly isolated growing up years and well into their twenties until they went off to college or married.  I'm trying to spend more time with her but she needs a peer.

 

Will have to post an academic update when we restart our school year in August (took month of July off).

 

:seeya:



#124 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 22 July 2017 - 09:58 AM

ltlmrs, I think loneliness can be an issue for lots of little girls unless they have sisters very close in age. I don't think modern life, even with HSing families, makes it easy for little girls to establish and maintain friendships. My DD attends school. Mostly because I chose to return to work for financial reasons but also because she's an only child and I had a very hard providing her with any kind of a social life without school. Schools provides short term friendships. The school year ends, and we don't see those kids again until the next year. During the school year, there is very little socializing outside of school. Families don't have time for it because they are so busy taking kids to soccer and ballet, etc.

 

Things have improved for my daughter recently because she's finally found some kids on the block to play with. We're out of sync with other kids in the neighborhood because DD attends private school. But even the public school kids attend a variety of charter and public schools. The days of the neighborhood school are over. There are several younger elementary school girls in the neighborhood but sometimes they seem to flit in and out of the playing. The little girl she plays with the most is older than DD and is about to go back to school. I'm sure we'll see much less of her come monday when the school year begins which will be hard for DD. This little girl has told that she's moving this year.

 

I worried about some of the neighborhood kids because their families don't share our values. Most don't attend church. There are single parents with boyfriends around. DD has been exposed to more television than we allow in our house and has learned about TV shows and movies that we would never allow her to see. I'm sure some other mothers who would keep their daughters from those influences. But there is no BenOp of families to provide us with a friend group. The families at church and at Catholic school are busy. Sometimes DD plays with one of those girls but then something changes and the girls fall out with each other.

 

Sorry to go on and on about this subject but I think it's a problem for many of us and it really makes me sad.

 

 


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#125 ElizaG

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Posted 29 September 2017 - 11:27 AM

Aaaaagh!

Have been trying to come up with a system that works with our current situation (newborn through 8th grade), and it's not going well. I think I must have ended up with more children than functioning brain cells.

Math and Latin are supposed to be done independently for now. DH has taken over checking the older ones' math. IDK what's going on with their Latin... probably best not to think about right now!

I'm getting a sense that we might do best with some sort of block schedule where everyone is working on the same overall subject (for say 30 minutes), with individual recitations/tutoring tucked in there. Little folks could recite first, then go play a relevant game (or similar) at an adjacent table, possibly with older ones taking turns watching them. I need a very minimalist plan for this, especially stuff-wise, as I'm having to keep everyone in a fairly small space in order to keep tabs on them all.

Thoughts would be appreciated, and if you can point me to any old threads where I tried to figure this sort of thing out, that might help too. When stressed and sleep-deprived, I seem to specialize in reinventing the wheel, only more lopsided each time. ;-)
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#126 LostCove

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Posted 05 October 2017 - 03:24 PM

Playdoh. That's all I got at the moment. But it's keeping the toddler and 4yo occupied long enough for lessons with the big kids - of course, I only have two big kids, so I'm not having to keep as many folks busy for as long as you, ElizaG, and the novelty is surely going to wear off any day now... Congrats on your new baby! How wonderful!


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#127 ElizaG

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 08:37 AM

Thanks, LC. The problem isn't so much that the little ones interrupt us during lessons, but more that I get so bogged down that I forget to hold those lessons in the first place. I wasn't anywhere near this muddled at this stage with previous newborns. But it does seem to be improving now that baby is sleeping for longer stretches. Probably just my age making me less resilient to physical stress (that was the story of the whole pregnancy, pretty much). On the up side, I have much more peace of mind than in the past. It's required a whole lot of babies and toddlers to get me to feeling experienced and nearly always confident, but whatever, I'll take it. :-)

After a few toddler incidents and much purloining of pencils, I've given up on keeping all of the necessities in sight, and dedicated a locking file drawer to hold my teaching supplies for our traditional style lessons. Now I just need to figure out what to put in it. I'm realizing that many of my current "essentials" really aren't, and would be better kept somewhere else.

BTW, did you ever get a planning and record-keeping system figured out?

#128 ltlmrs

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Posted 01 November 2017 - 08:04 PM

Congratulations, ElizaG and LostCove!

 

I'm on here for only a second.  Will try to find an opportunity to get on the computer for a bit longer so I can post.  LostCove, I want to discuss grammar, I've come to pretty much the exact same conclusion and narrowly avoided getting CW because I thought we weren't doing enough for English, lol.

 

:seeya:



#129 LostCove

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Posted 03 November 2017 - 09:27 AM

Oh, that problem, ElizaG! Yeah, I got nothing for you there. I've hit a similar issue, just four months late - somehow, weirdly, we cruised along really well for the first little bit after this baby was born (I can only assume that I didn't realize just how awful I was feeling during that pregnancy based on how energetic and wonderful I felt by contrast even in the immediate postpartum period), and now something - changing weather bringing the kids inside more? normal part of our bust-and-boom cycle despite the fact that I thought our previous routine was sustainably modest in its ambitions? just having more, older kids and anticipating the EFL black hole that lies beyond age 10? the entropy of the house reaching unacceptable levels on the cobweb meter? - has driven me to putting on a nature show for the kids and coming here. 

 

When I was discussing the State of our Household with my husband recently, he suggested keeping a time log, which I did for a few days. The good news is that I'm not actually as slothful as I might have guessed, and the bad news is there actually is no extra time to repurpose. Hence, the nature show, temporary escapist retreat to the internet, and frantic reserving of library books on home management (all previously read, of course) in the hopes of figuring how to work "smarter." Can I count it as some kind of progress that I'm not beating myself up about this too much because I know that it will pass?

 

I've been through a few iterations of planning and record keeping and I think the resolution is...don't do lessons that require more planning ahead than the night before. Just like EFL said. At least for the EFL-aged children, which is all I have still. (but have we linked this woman's blog here? I like some of her ideas and her DIY spirit. Also, I did make a big language arts scope and sequence spreadsheet a while back that I still might use in the future). Seriously, the thing that seems to be happening now is the abandoning of the last few extra-EFL things I was trying to squeeze in. 

 

One of which is any sort of organized approach to "content subjects." Because what happens is that I start to worry about getting through the fun little unit on the Age of Exploration or whatever that I planned and drop the observation lessons to do so, which is not actually what I want to be doing. I'm just going to read aloud and discuss books that seem interesting to me when I feel like it, try to get us out on a few field trips that seem worth the effort more often, provide "research journals" for the kids to document anything they want in (or not), and call it done. I'll revisit the issue when we hit the post-EFL years. I did buy a teacher planner this year which I set up kind of like Jennifer Mackintosh has here (I love color-coding, it turns out! and erasable pens!), and now, instead of planing things out ahead, I'm keeping notes of those type of content-y things as they happen. 

 

I am experimenting with formal Latin studies with the 9yo this year. Totally not necessary, but I'd had it in my head to start for real at 10 and if we mess around this year, I'm hoping to have a better sense of what to do when we start "for real" next year and feel less stressed about it. So, that's the one non-EFL thing I'd really like to hang on to this year. At first I was going to just use LLPSI. Then I decided to DIY it because doesn't that sound fun? And I wanted to incorporate at least some "real" Latin, somehow and reading Reggie Foster's book helped me visualize how this could happen. So I was patching stuff together with a copy of the Vulgate, Latin without Tears, LLSPI, and - wait for it - Montessori grammar materials.  :lol: And I think it was actually working pretty well, but obviously required a stupidly impossible amount of preparation from me. Still, a very worthwhile experiment that confirmed that I do want to keep working at this until I figure out something that works and preserves the element of real Latin, even if in very small amounts, from the beginning. Next, I might try having my son work through some canned program for grammar and then just read real Latin with me. If you do ever get around to scanning that Stephen Mathias Stephenson text, ElizaG, I would be VERY interested! I did a fairly cursory search for vintage interlinear Latin texts, which seem like they are going to be very helpful.

 

Because I decided to overdo the Latin, we went with Math Mammoth for the 9yo after all this year, which he is using pretty independently. The 6yo is having her turn learning Hiawatha. We are almost done, and the two littler ones have picked up a lot of it. I'm reading Evangeline aloud to all of them. Honestly, I'm not sure I'm ever going to get the hang of forcing poetry recitation with good elocution, etc. Husband has suggested organizing a poetry recitation event with friends to provide motivation. Maybe.

 

I've been pretty good about staying away from reading educational theory these days, but I have to report two lapses: The Crisis of Western Education by Christopher Dawson, which was really disappointing given some other works of his I have read and liked, and then Education at the Crossroads by Maritain, which, oh my goodness, the first half was quite good and was just what I think I was hoping Norms and Nobility was going to be, and the second half was a serious let down - a fairly standard argument for a Great Books-ish reform of collegiate education.

 

Hi, ltlmrs! We were just thinking of your lovely family when we travelled north for fall break recently. I've also contemplated that Learning Grammar through Writing book - I think my parents may have even had it in their homeschooling days, but I don't remember us actually using it.



#130 ltlmrs

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Posted 12 November 2017 - 01:43 PM

I'm on here for a split second and I should probably post this on the Latin Grammar First thread, but has anyone seen the Learn to Read Latin book by Andrew Keller and Stephanie Russell?  Yale Press has it and I see they now have a Greek book by the same authors.  Latin is on my mind and as I was browsing our Latin resources I found this.  It was very dusty  :leaving: .  Anyway, the intro states that the authors were especially interested in getting students to read authentic Latin prose upon completion of the text, it can be used by middle schoolers and they start unabridged/unedited classical Latin for reading in the second chapter.  Granted, it's like half a sentence to begin, but by the end of the text they have fairly long excerpts from Virgil, Cicero, etc.  This would probably be too advanced for Ladybug next year unless we moved very very slowly, but I thought I'd post in case someone with older kids is interested.  Now I really want to see that Greek book.

 

 



#131 ltlmrs

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Posted 17 November 2017 - 03:39 PM

Hey, all!  Finally have time to post: playyard at the library, brilliant!

 

Things are ok here, not bad but not super great.  I honestly expected that once we were out of the newborn phase and not flying back and forth to the city the way we were things would fall into a routine and they have, to a great extent, but I’m still not hitting all the things I’d like too – not really with school but other aspects of our life.  Part of it is still ingrained habits/lack of discipline on my part (if I kept a time log, I’m sure there’d be hours of wasted time!), but in part its unfortunately unavoidable because of health.  It’s actually rather discouraging in some ways because I feel like last school year was practically lost.  We chose to take a good break this summer even though we were behind to reconnect as a family after loosing my dad, so we didn’t really do any catch up work then either.  So, in spite of working fairly diligently since mid-August, we’re still plugging away at things that we were plugging away at this time last year.

 

In some ways Robinson was good for Ladybug.  I saw her taking a lot more initiative in producing written output: she actually started keeping a gardening notebook and trying various experiments with plants, she kept (and still does!) a nature study notebook and is far more likely to look things up rather than just ask me (we now have a set of Encyclopedia Brittanica that has been getting used!).  But, our poetry studies got dropped (she just memorized various poems independently), her math stalled and worst of all: she developed a habit of dawdling over school work because I was not nearby to redirect her attention.  We’re still struggling with the last one and hours-wise school work  takes a lot longer than it should.

 

On the bright side, I am finally seeing how adding grain upon grain starts to look like a big heap, how to use EFL’s guidelines (Is it worth teaching? Does this particular child need it? Is this the time to teach it? Is it something he will be able to master on his own accord later?), and how to implement a Suzuki concept I’ve picked up from Ladybug’s violin teacher: “A lesson should be a clear and essential part of the long-term plan for that child.”  Every precious minute of my time doing lessons with one of my children is used to the fullest and I have peace, at least as far as our school work is concerned, that I’m mostly fulfilling my duty as far as the foundation is concerned (even if not perfectly).  I wish I could say the same thing for the state of our house.

 

Y’all might find this interesting: I’m in the process of decluttering phonics curriculum (I cannot believe how much money I spent on this stuff and almost everything is going out the door!) and found a sample of IEW’s PAL program.  Oddly enough the method that they attribute to Mrs. Ingrahm is fairly similar to EFL’s guidelines in that she used memorized poetry to teach children to read and taught sight words along with the phonics.  Of course, the way IEW implements it there are a lot of little pieces and way too complicated for my tastes!

 

I’ve got Ladybug in SU Arithmetic.  I discovered during the chaotic time earlier this year that I really was not able to supervise enough for EFL lessons to be carried out successfully so she just ended up doing flashcards for math facts (I didn’t even have enough brain cells to print out MM for her, grr) and when we started up again in the fall I switched her over to using a textbook even though she’s also picked up EFL arithmetic where she left off.  I plan to fill in some gaps with MM worksheets but overall I’m really happy with SU, it really resembles the Russian text that I used as a little girl.  Spelling is still going well.  Latin is slow but on track and I’ve added in explicit grammar instruction; but, French is not getting done, though I’m trying again after the New Year with L’Art de Dire, or maybe I’ll just stop worrying it for a while.  For religion I ended up settling on OLV.  Not thrilled with that but it was better than not getting done at all like last year.  I stopped worrying about nature study, she took care of that herself when she asked to join 4H and although I had her memorizing states & capitals we dropped that for now to free up more time for Latin.  For English we’re still working through Horatius.  Because we only have two 15 minute English dictations each week and we are actually using Horatius for all of the English language work, we’re moving at a snail’s pace.  But, it’s been very effective.

 

Of course, anyone who has ever read something I’ve written knows that grammar is not my strong suit in any language!  But, that means I haven’t had this much fun homeschooling since… well, never.  I’m enjoying it for the first time, lol, in part because I’m using brain cells that haven’t been used for a while studying Latin, English and Russian grammar along side Ladybug.   In researching how best to teach English (esp to maximize the short amount of time we devote to it!) and Latin, I’ve been struck by the role parsing used to play in language instruction.  Parsing has been and still is essential to the teaching of Russian grammar.  Speaking to my French friend, parsing is still taught in French schools.  But, for some reason it seems that in American schools parsing was replaced with diagramming, which doesn’t seem to be quite the same thing.  So, we’ve been adding in parsing.  I will end up doing diagramming but I need a good book to use as a reference for me, any ideas?

 

Oh and I’ve been inspired to look back at the work of Dr. Edwin Abbott who was headmaster of the City of London School and preceded EFL by about 30 years.  I’ve mentioned him before I think when we discussed the education of boys.  I’m really enjoying his Hints on Home Teaching.  I know I read it a couple years back but I didn’t remember anything, lol.  My memory lapses are getting rather distressing.  I’m also using his grammar textbook (How to Tell the Parts of Speech) as the basis for our English language lessons with Horatius.  I feel like this gives a nice balance between “do the next thing” type of curriculum and EFL methods so I don’t have to plan so much.

 

In other news, we’re still struggling with housekeeping and social issues.  OrdinaryShoes: how’d your DD adjust to her friend going back to school?  Dealing with people moving and only being in our lives temporarily has been hard on the kids.  About half our parish left at the same time so almost all the friendships my girls have built up in the past two years have gone “poof.”  We’ve recently discovered a homeschool park group that meets nearby, but they are all associated with a particular protestant church so the kids involved are already friends with each other and I’m not sure what they’ll do once the weather turns cold.  PE has also been difficult to figure out.  The younger two are fairly active, but Ladybug is getting more sedentary each day (apple don’t fall far from the tree).  She’d be very happy if we went on more hikes and trips to the nature preserve but I don’t think I can pull that off.  I think next year I’m going to put them in the y homeschool pe class, but meanwhile I think Santa might bring some kid exercise dvds.

 

Oh and I almost forgot.  There’s a copy of the Stephenson book about two hours away from me.  I actually got in touch with the library and asked if they’d be willing to scan it for me and unsurprisingly they won’t, lol, but they said I’m more than welcome to use their scanner and do it myself.  The tricky part is figuring out what to do with the baby for all this to happen, I may have to wait till she’s old enough to be left with grandma for a day.  I also wish I knew what other books they might have that would be of interest to us so that I could make it into an even more productive trip.  I'm going to revive the Latin thread soon.


Edited by ltlmrs, 17 November 2017 - 03:43 PM.


#132 ElizaG

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 05:51 AM

Just up to feed the baby. Was thinking about the way discouragement and boredom seem to go together, and push me toward either inaction or distraction. I’ve come to the realization that what I need most right now is perseverance. EFL uses that word a lot, but does she ever say how we can strengthen ours? I mean, we can obviously strengthen it just by practicing it, but that seems circular, since perseverance itself is the virtue that allows us to keep on exercising a particular virtue. LOL.

From the little I read earlier, St. Thomas considers perseverance to be a part of courage. This fits with the connection with discouragement.

As it happens, I’ve been thinking about fear in an EFL context for the last few months. Mainly just wondering if our anxiety-promoting modern environment is making it harder for us all to follow such deeply relational approaches to teaching and family life (due to the incompatibility of fear and love). So maybe this all fits together. Hmm.
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#133 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 22 November 2017 - 06:54 PM

Ltlmrs, DD's little friend going to school this year has been good for DD (or rather for me). No more whining about why she has to school but her friend doesn't. We're in a good stride with school this year. DD's having a good year. She's getting along with the teacher and is really blossoming socially at school. Her reading took off this year. It was such a chore last year to get DD to read. She didn't like many books and she drug her feet. It's like all of the sudden her skills improved so she could read things she wanted to read. She's reading at least a grade level ahead which is a big weight off my shoulders. 

 

Grant me a little bragging - we just got DD's Iowa test (standardized tests given in many private schools nationwide) results back and DD got 99th percentile in vocabulary. I like to think this has something to do with the old fashioned language arts thinking that I read about here. We spend a lot of time talking about words; what they mean and they're used in a particular sentence. 

 

 


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#134 ltlmrs

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Posted 01 January 2018 - 09:57 AM

Well, Christmas break is in full swing and I started the annual rereading of EFL’s work.  This time around I’m focusing on her articles.  Thought, I’d pop in here for a little while.

 

Boredom is an issue here too, but it tends to manifest itself as self-sabotage.   When things go somewhat well I tend to get bored and want to start changing things or adding unnecessary work in and that always backfires.  Moving from EFL’s arithmetic lessons to SU proved this to me.  Once we got back to a solid routine this past fall I found myself bored and discouraged with the progress and used that as an excuse to switch to a textbook.  But, of course, that was a stupid decision because with EFL’s lessons Ladybug was actually thinking about math and making connections (she discovered prime numbers all on her own even before EFL said she would – that was so neat!), but when we switched to SU it became very mechanical and she stalled as much as when she was just doing flashcards.  So, we’re going back to EFL’s lessons and I intend to stick with them till she’s through.  It’s discouraging though because at her speed it seems like this will take at least another year.

 

I wish it was just with one subject, but I see this trend repeated over and over.  Ladybug is still memorizing the Pushkin poem she started two and a half years ago.  She’s been doing this mostly independently and is only about a quarter of the way through the 800 or so total lines (bilingual issue – she’s memorizing in three languages every day so its slow going).  Every couple of months I start worrying about the extensive vs. intensive issue and get bored with having her recite the same thing over and over week in and week out.  I try to get her to stop and switch to a different poem.  She wants none of it, tells me she really loves the poem and wants to learn the whole thing but needs the structure of it being part of the “school checklist” as insurance that it will get done.  It is ridiculous that I, the teacher-mother, is the one that’s pushing for her to stop when she wants to persevere.

 

Don’t get me wrong: this was probably the best semester we have had since starting homeschooling and for that I am very grateful.  But, calling it the best is not saying much and that’s depressing.  Rereading EFL is also rather depressing because it’s humbling to see all the elements that I’m missing spelled out in black and white.  For example, because I felt guilty over the “wasted” (in quotes because it wasn’t wasted at all – just not ideal) last year, I’ve been doing a lot more teaching and we gradually slipped into school mode: me teaching and then giving Ladybug assignments.  I’ve been so focused on making a variety of language lessons that I missed the major recommendation EFL gives for this age: intensive study of a text with a dictionary.  For Horatius, we’ve been using the MP edition that has notes in the margin and for other things we usually just discuss meanings (whether of words or passages) and only occasionally I make her look something up.  But, rereading EFL it’s very clear that at a certain point the child is supposed to grapple with the text himself.  Well, lo and behold, I’ve discovered that Ladybug is far more content with fuzzy meanings and simply skipping over something that she doesn’t understand and never takes the time to look it up.  Now, I don’t mind that for pleasure reading, but for an assignment I think EFL’s requirements are perfectly reasonable.  Now, just like with arithmetic, we have to go back and work on the basics: copywork and retellings.

 

So, I anticipate a much simplified homeschool after the break.  For one thing, most of our Latin work is going to get dropped: this is yet another area where I’m going back to EFL’s advice (this will be so hard!  I got a copy of Fr. Foster’s book for Christmas and am so excited because the first several encounters were precisely how we had been studying Latin with the Russian textbook – using Luke 2 in the Vulgate for the text – and I hate to change something that was working).

 

After reflecting on EFL’s chapter on the retarded child I think I’ve settled on following the plan of focusing on one thing for a few weeks, then gradually adding in other subjects.  This will be really hard for me (see above note on boredom!), but I feel like the rest of the year be better spent in focusing on the basics (neat notebooks, good handwriting, not being content with fuzzy understanding) before moving on next year to more formal Latin, composition and maybe even some content subjects.  The fact is: when we have followed EFL’s advice precisely all the children have been better off, when I get restless and change things around or add in “stuff” the children suffer.

 

I am hoping that with a simplified plan for Ladybug I will have more interpersonal energy for the two middles.  I especially feel like I’ve neglected Little Man, but really training in the work habit for all three of the older ones.  I felt so guilty (sense a theme?) over the amount of work that got dumped on them during the pregnancy and neglecting them during my dad’s illness that I probably swung in the other extreme about requiring them to do chores regularly.  I’ve been doing ok with poetry and observation lessons with the middle two, but discipline and work have suffered.  I need to make more of an effort to include those two in my daily routine instead of letting them play all day.  Of course, that means I have to have a routine and do my own work with some form of regularity.

 

I’m going to sign off with a potential resource that I’ve discovered for the EFL black hole.  This would probably not work for a child who has had EFL training from the beginning, but for one who started late this might provide enough hand holding for the mother to later transition to Fr. Donnelly’s books.  Trying to not think too much ahead but I might have Ladybug work through Book II at some point.

 

Webster-Cooley Two Book Course in Language, Grammar and Composition Older edition Book I and Book II; new Book I and Book II;  

 

I especially like book II of the older edition meant for the 6-8th years: fewer pieces more time spent on each piece.  The authors believed that grammar should be left till the 7th or 8th grade and they spend a significant amount of time on each piece of literature before moving on to the next.  Reading the introduction to the older edition book 2, I think there are a lot of similarities in their philosophy with that of EFL and they rely quite a bit on selections from Longfellow, Tennyson and Lowell.  Anyway, maybe it will help someone.


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#135 ElizaG

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Posted 02 January 2018 - 03:41 PM

:) Hi ltlmrs!  Happy new year!

 

Thanks for the update.  It sounds as if we're dealing with a lot of the same challenges as you are, though there's not much risk of my overdoing the younger children's lessons (due to a "fortunate lack of time," as Fr. Donnelly might say). 

 

There's a thread elsewhere on the boards about whether or not we've become better at homeschooling over the years.   This is relevant to our family, since on the surface, it seems to me that I'm doing a lot worse.   As I've been peeling away more and more of the spoon-feeding methods and mediocre media -- adults' as well as children's -- I wish I could say we're left with pure simplicity and quality of the EFL type, but that isn't really the case.  It's more of a mish-mosh, with some great bits and some dodgy ones, and not much apparent order. 

 

In that other thread, someone said that she evaluates her homeschooling by whether or not she'd be comfortable charging money to teach someone else's children the same way.   Put that way, I'm surely a miserable failure.  There isn't even anything to advertise, IYKWIM.   

 

Then there was another suggested line of thinking:  "Would I be willing to pay to have someone else teach my children the way I'm doing it?"  Looking at it that way, I realized that the answer was "yes," for the most part.  Given the options for outsourcing that really exist around here, it seems fairly likely that I'd choose to have the children spend their days in someone else's minimally structured but culturally enriched home environment, rather than in any given school.    In choosing a place, my criteria would have little to do with the other teacher-mother's ability to give lessons on particular subjects, or to use certain methods (even EFL-approved ones), and much to do with her personal qualities and the organization of the environment.  These latter areas are what I'm still mainly working on here, and while progress is slow, it helps to know that I'm focusing my energies in a logical place.

 

I haven't been reading much from EFL herself recently, but one of her articles led me to look up the meaning of "moral insanity."  I'm not sure if she even uses this specific term, but it turns up quite often in 19th century writings, and the concept seemed to be implicit in her advice.  A brief search revealed that present-day academics tend to find it confusing as I did.  So, down another rabbit hole I went, until it made sense.  This is the best article I've found, by the preacher Charles G. Finney:

 

[ETA:  Argh!  For some reason, I can't paste text.  Sorry.  It's a sermon on BibleHub.com, titled "Moral Insanity," and shouldn't be hard to find with a search.]

 

This all hit a bit close to home -- both in terms of my own failings, and in terms of the lack of fundamental Christian understanding in today's social thinking (even among many in the Church).  So I took a break, and read a few more Kathleen Norris e-books.  This seems to be working, once again.  :)

 

I especially liked "The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne," and would be interested in comparing KN's implicit homeschooling advice to EFL's.  Mrs. Burgoyne seems to be more of a hands-on and "fun mom," but now I'm wondering if perhaps I've been misreading EFL (as I've tended to do with Montessori).   Maybe EFL herself would have encouraged this sort of direction, if the mother had a bit of extra leisure, as Mrs. Burgoyne did -- and as we do today, with our mechanical servants.  Or maybe she wouldn't have.  My efforts do tend to bear more fruit when I add those sorts of things, in small measure, into the homeschool ecosystem. 


Edited by ElizaG, 02 January 2018 - 04:39 PM.


#136 LostCove

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Posted 07 January 2018 - 05:24 PM

Hi, ltlmrs and ElizaG! It's lovely to hear from you both and motivated me to do make a little report of things happening and pondered upon here.

 

I'm feeling a lot of peace at the moment about how things are going here, not because it's so great or anything, but perhaps because I think I've just finally, really and truly shed the idea that there's a perfect method out there to uncover and implement, something I've "known" for a long time, but my actions and mental state did not necessarily reflect. If education is the handing on of our culture to our children, it seems that it actually happens kind of automatically (although not mechanistically, as if replicating a cog), if you can keep certain influences and structures at bay. Children just are formed by whatever culture they grow up in, it doesn't take any special methods or techniques for that to happen. So that's the good news, and the bad news is...children just are formed by whatever culture they grow up in.  :laugh:

 

As a consequence of this, I'm spending a lot more time thinking about the specifics of our situation which doesn't lend itself as well to chatting about on the internet. Also five children seems to be my limit for finding much overlapping time and mental energy to string two coherent sentences together - I've had this post open on my screen for four days now. Eliza, how you keep up the pace of reading you seem to is a marvel to me - I try not to be jealous!

 

I'm still trying to figure out this recitation and elocution piece. I was going through old pictures recently and found a little video of our eldest at 2 or 3 reciting a little nursery rhyme with better expression than his current piece of poetry.  :glare: Some of this seems like it might be developmental - part of EFL's argument for all the epic poetry with little ones is precisely because they are not as interested in poetry as they get older - but I still want us to be working on good habits of oral expression, I'm just having a hard time imagining what this would look like, I guess. The two older children had been working on their own self-chosen poems separately, but if I'm going to need to be more hands-on, I'll probably revert back to working on one mom-chosen poem all together. 

 

Another thing I've been thinking a lot about lately are expectations about homeschooling "consistency." Consistent routines and rhythms seem like a good thing, to be sure, but there's the way a machine is consistent and then there's the way nature is consistent, and so what sort of consistency about which sort of things should we actually be aiming for in our home life? I tend to feel bad about about the ways in which it seems like we are inconsistent

(in terms of the kind of advice you often see to at least do math everyday or at least read aloud everyday or at least go outside every day), but perhaps that is misallocated guilt that would be better felt over other kinds of inconsistency.

 

Quick thought on discouragement and boredom (and I think I've shared before Auntie Leila on longanimity): St. Thomas said that one remedy for acedia is to spend time contemplating the good you are trying to achieve. I've found this works much better than my natural inclination to extravagantly accuse myself of sloth (which may be accurate, but surprisingly to me actually demotivates) and explains the motivating power of the properly timed Kathleen Norris novel (I really liked The Rich Mrs. Burgoyne too, by the way, when I read it last year - it would be interesting to look at it again to compare with EFL more intentionally). I've also used it to justify a lot of the abstract theorizing about education and family life I've done over the years on the argument that it's difficult to motivate oneself beyond boredom by a fuzzy, vaguely-grasped goal, although the mental energy for all that is pretty hard to come by these days, and as we've discussed, the abstract notions only take you so far and sometimes are an obstacle.

 

Instead I've been reading more biographies of various people I admire and paying close attention to the descriptions of their childhood and educations. Hugh Trevor-Roper apparently got started with Latin at six by his Scottish governess who "had a great love for the classics." And Christopher Lasch's mother had majored in Latin at the University of Nebraska (this biography also quotes a letter she wrote him after he had married and had children in which she gives him some very EFL-ish advice against boughten toys) - he won a state-wide Latin award in high school and was offered a scholarship to the University of Chicago on that basis, which he declined. I wonder if his grounding in Latin explains why, despite being very concerned about the state of American education, he seems to have been completely uninterested in Hutchins/Alder-style projects. And I picked up a copy of some collected works of Kathleen Norris with a little foreward by her in which she describes the literary culture of her family (also a bit of a mish-mash!): 

 


My own literary ancestors are those prolific, not-too-important writing folk upon whose works I battened through all the happy years of a country childhood. Shakespeare, Dickens, Jane Austen were far above my head, but there were lesser lights, and I sat at their feet. Trollop, Charlotte M. Young of the big families and domestic joys and sorrows, Rosa Nouchette Carey of Queenie's Whim and Uncle Max, these were my daily food.

 

But these were not all. We who grew up in a small house in the heart of a redwood forest must have swept, I believe, through three hundred books a year. We ranged furiously from Macauley's England to Dotty Dimple's Cousin Prudy. We read Newman's Apologia and Mrs. Craven's Recit d'une Soeur. We raked books off the shelves by the dozen and hauled them along on picnics, to haylofts, up oak trees, to bath and to bed. The one terrifying possibility was to find oneself without a book. My father put Othello or The Tempest in his pocket when he took us off for a Sunday walk; and although my mother religiously burned Nick Carters wherever she found them [I tried to discover just what exactly a Nick Carter was, but quickly gave up after googling returned 5,000,000 Backstreet Boys-related results], she was invariably too late. Dinner-table talk was of books, and one sister, later to marry the poet William Rose Benét, save herself the trouble of making a poetry collection, as the rest of us did in blank books, by simply memorizing everything she liked, once and for all. 

 

It was natural then, in a day when there were no motorcars and no movies, that we six who were so early orphaned should gather around a lamp in the evenings, and that one of us should be the storyteller. For whole years of winter evenings this was my proud responsibility. If the tale grew too sophisticated for some small sleepy member of the group it was steered away, to the best of my ability, to simpler and more amusing regions. When some voice said, "Have a murder in it," or "What did they have for dinner?" or "Didn't she have any bridesmaid?" I strove to oblige.

 

Seems to have served her well enough in the end!


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#137 Manora

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:08 AM

I just want to say thank you, all previous contributors, for your hard work and contribution to our understanding of education at home. Thank you!



#138 ElizaG

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Posted 15 January 2018 - 07:45 PM

:001_smile: Hello, Manora; glad you've found some things helpful. 

 

LostCove, I've done very little reading in the last several months, though I did indulge in a bit over our Christmas break.  The last author to make it onto the pile was Nassim Nicholas Taleb.   I didn't get through much of his work before having to stop, but some of his ideas relate to what we're discussing here.  In particular, he'd agree with your thinking re consistency.   He thinks that living systems can be made more "antifragile" (= able to benefit from unexpected adversity) by including the extremes, rather than trying to chart a perfect middle course.  Sounds a lot like what Melissa Wiley calls "tidal homeschooling." This seems to be more or less the norm in large families that aren't sticking firmly to a specific curriculum.

 

What you say about children being formed by their culture also seems true, though sort of depressing.  There's no changing the outside culture in any big way, and it seems as if I spend so much energy trying to mediate between it and our family's culture, that I haven't got much left over to nurture the family itself.   I don't know if this is inevitable, or if I'm doing it all wrong.   My impression is that most families in our circles either just allow pretty much anything that's not obviously immoral, or else allow things that have some outside stamp of approval (e.g., Bethlehem Books, church-sponsored activities, anything on a curriculum list).  They also don't seem very concerned about age-appropriateness, so the olders and youngers have access to the same media and events.  Over here, though, I'm still trying to look at everything on a case-by-case basis, and make use of my understanding of traditional moral and literary standards -- even if the latter are still more often honored in the breach than in the observance. 

 

Nick Carter is actually a good illustration here.  It's a pulp fiction detective series that was popular with young people around the world circa 1900, but was criticized by the older generation as "sensational" and "brutalizing."   A brief search of Google Books reveals that academic papers have been written on its reception in Sweden, of all places.  (Yes, the US was known for exporting trashy pop culture even before Hollywood. :001_rolleyes:)  You can find some scans of the late 1800s ones online.   TBH, they don't seem substantially worse than some of the stuff that's recommended today as "real books," "wholesome family reading," and "heroic tales for boys."   Of course the writing isn't great, but it's marginally better than, say, some of the Redwall books -- which, in turn, are marginally better than some of the children's fiction series in our local Catholic bookshop.  So, yes, depressing all around.

 

And this isn't the worst of it.  Even if there's a lack of social support for older literary standards, at least we can get some idea of what they are.  For the unwritten aspects of homeschooling and family culture -- self-direction, schedules, speech, the dreaded slouching ;) -- it's still unclear to me what our standards should be.  I mean, EFL and other authors might say such-and-such, but is that just an ideal that we're supposed to approximate, or a norm that any family would be expected to match?   And, if the latter, does that mean we still can achieve it in our time, or should I aim somewhat lower, on account of there having been several intervening generations of muddle?

 

This is similar to the problem I had with Montessori, but at least there are some pretty authentic AMI schools to look at. 

 

Sorry, this is rather bleak.   I'm feeling torn between the desire to run a tighter ship (or at least get rid of several more boxes of "highly recommended" and perhaps even "beloved" books, with the excuse of making room for Christmas presents), and the definite need for some angst-free family relaxation and enjoyment.   Will probably end up getting out the video game system that's been stashed away for months.   Not great, but low-clutter, and better than a mommy meltdown.   :tongue_smilie: