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ElizaG last won the day on February 24 2014

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  1. I think this might be a good time to step back from those new horizons and do a chapter-by-chapter discussion of EFL’s Bookless Lessons for the Teacher-Mother (1922). Is anyone interested in this idea? Re-readers and first-time readers would be welcome. Also, for those who prefer printed books, does anyone have a good print-on-demand version of Bookless Lessons to recommend?
  2. I need help with this, too. I never could figure out how we’re supposed to keep them contentedly nearby for longish periods while we’re doing other things. Pre-EFL, the best advice I received was to set them up with a chalkboard or Montessori table-washing or something similar. Those activities rarely last long enough for me to focus on anything else, though, so as our family has grown, they’ve mainly just played with their siblings. This is one reason why we still have so many “boughten toys.”
  3. I don’t know how old your children are (under 10 covers a lot!), but thinking back to when my oldest were preschool and kindergarten age, I wish I’d started out with something like the Bonnie Landry booklets, but more EFL-ish. Not Montessori, or John Senior, or whatever else I was reading back then. And not even EFL’s books, because I probably would have missed the point. Landry has quite a lot in common with EFL, but with less emphasis on order, and more emphasis on relationships. I think many families today need help with both; I know mine did, and in many ways still does. And it’s true that relationships are at the root of it all. But Landry stops short of EFL’s expectations in areas such as academics and the formation of virtuous habits. She recommends letting a lot of things slide, for the sake of a cozy home environment, and to help everyone stay in a positive mental state. “Both parents and children are often over tired, grumpy, overwhelmed, over stimulated…emotions run high.” “Most of us don’t come naturally wired to deal calmly and patiently with people who are freaking out. But we can learn it. Like anything else we want to become good at, it takes practice. If we can learn how to maintain self control in small situations, like the juice spilling or the math not being done in a timely manner…it will be much easier to be calm and patient under fire.“ (From “What Matters Most”) The more I learn of EFL’s background and influences, the more I realize that she must have taken a lot of the things Landry talks about for granted — the supportive family ties, the cozy home, even the ability to avoid freaking out (whether due to better habits, less overall stress, or both). And while she realized that things were changing in her day, and American life was getting more fast-paced and impersonal, she didn’t offer much advice specifically to mothers who themselves were struggling with the effects of this new environment. Not in her published work, at any rate. Of course, 100 years later, the gap is even wider. Sorry, this is getting pretty far away from your question! But anyway, I would have benefited from a short list of advice that combined high standards for personal growth *and* encouragement to teach just the basics in a simple, warm, relaxed atmosphere.
  4. Hello, GracieJane; I’m glad you’ve joined in. Sounds like you’re off to a good start with your little ones. 🙂 My children have needed a lot of oversight with chores at that age, but there’s a description of a somewhat more self-directed five year old in one of EFL’s columns. I think it was Pat, Florence’s eldest daughter. This might have been in the list of links I posted in this 2014 Ruth Beechick thread, or in a different bunch posted by LostCove, which I can’t seem to find now. As for ideas for chores in general, I was just looking at a Rod & Staff K workbook that gives the examples of playing with a younger sibling, making the bed (with another child), setting the table (with another child), folding washcloths, sweeping the porch, washing a small stack of dishes (when someone else has already started the job), and helping to pick tomatoes. EFL also suggested having them pick bugs off potato plants, just in case you have any needs in that department. 😄 Mine have been a real help with bringing things to other rooms when we’re tidying up. They also enjoy dusting. It has a real fascination for them, for some reason. (The child-size wool duster is one of the few Montessori materials that’s seen heavy long-term use around here.)
  5. Can we talk about summer schedules? We’re definitely going to keep up some sort of daily individual meetings, because every time we’ve stopped those, it’s been very difficult for all of us to get them going again. And I have a couple of older ones who need to make more progress in math. Other than that, though, I’m undecided, especially since travel and extracurricular classes are still up in the air.
  6. Picture books: Me First (by Helen Lester) Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs Chapter books: The Peterkin Papers Three Men in a Boat Poetry: Cautionary Tales for Children (by Hilaire Belloc) Poems by Ogden Nash Edward Lear’s Nonsense Works
  7. The written recitations are something I’d like to start doing with my older ones. They could be done topically (as a short paper), or in question-and-answer format (as a quiz). Even in our time, it’s not unusual for high school teachers to give one or other of these at the start of each class period. I don’t think that would work for us, but maybe we could do it once a week or so. There were also oral “topical recitations,” in which the student had to give an on-the-spot discourse on a particular topic being studied. If they got all their information from a single text, this would be close to CM style narration, which is really just a specific form of recitation. BTW, the teacher’s part in the recitation was commonly known as “hearing lessons.” Searching on that phrase will turn up more references, both pro and con. One of the latter is this brief homeschooling manual from 1870s Britain, which insists on the importance of directly teaching every lesson. The book is said to be for governesses and parents, but I don’t see how parents of more than one child could use this approach, unless they also had a governess (or perhaps a team of governesses!). The author says that her primary goal is to impart the “the greatest amount of information in the least amount of time;” teaching the child how to learn on her own is a lesser priority. EFL, along with many old-time schoolmasters, would surely disagree with this. Speaking of schoolmasters, I’ve coincidentally just been looking at David Perkins Page’s Theory and Practice of Teaching (1848), which LostCove linked to above. It was very highly recommended by a later author, and (though written for the classroom) it seems very much in keeping with EFL’s thinking. I did a search, hoping to learn a bit about the author, and discovered that it was the most popular educational textbook of the 19th century! Why has it taken so many years for us to come across it? The history of education is such a bafflingly obscure field.
  8. The trouble for us is that the recitation was taken for granted, so nobody thought to write about it until it was on the decline. It also went through various pedagogical shifts, especially at the end, when it was turned into its complete opposite (the child-led, Dewey-inspired “socialized recitation.”) This makes it difficult to understand in our time, and even more difficult to describe briefly. It’s similar to trying to figure out what “classical education” meant. This article from 1874 is a fairly good introduction to recitation in a classroom context. Many of EFL’s bookless lessons involve a type of recitation. What’s not clear to me is how much this is supposed to continue when the child moves on to book lessons. Is the parent supposed to understand the material enough to keep conducting recitations, or is it more of a Robinson approach? Or does this depend on the child’s age, with close guidance for the youngest ones, and gradually decreasing input after that? I think it must be the latter, but there are very few scholarly resources that even mention traditional individual home education, let alone describe how it was conducted. Novels have actually been the most helpful so far. I’ll try to add some references for this later. I also don’t know if there’s a particular form of recitation that was the norm in classical teaching. The Jesuits didn’t even rely much on recitations. Their emphasis was on the prelection, a thorough introductory lesson that was heavily teacher-led and took place before the student studied the text on his own (thus the name). But I think most other classical schools, and home tutors, would have used the recitation as a main part of teaching.
  9. I think the main thing would be to avoid books that emphasize “thinking like a scientist” (vs. just being observant). This includes most school textbooks, as well as BFSU, if I’m remembering correctly. We have the McHenry book, and it doesn’t take this approach, but the activities are a bit gimmicky. I think it’s fine as an extra, though I wouldn’t assign it. Another thing that’s definitely a “university method” is an emphasis on showing evidence from the text, just for the sake of it. E.g. in Seton‘s 5th grade history, the lesson plans tell the child to underline the parts of the text that contain the answers to the end-of-chapter questions (of which there are many, most of them just pretty random facts). It makes sense for the parent or teacher to refer back to the text if the child is having difficulty, but this is just drilling them in how to identify sources. (It could also be discouraging to a child who had studied the chapter well enough to remember many of the answers.)
  10. Not at all, mms! 🙂 I’m interested in Dupanloup because he writes about changing bad habits, which EFL acknowledged was not her area of expertise. But these other topics are all very worthwhile too. I think you might be right about the connection between “study skills” and university methods. One of the earliest books about teaching children how to study was by Frank McMurry, in 1909. He equates study with research, and uses the analogy of a scientific investigation. He also mentions (p. 24) that in Germany, the verb “studieren” is never applied to the child, whose activities are described as “lernen.” He doesn’t seem to let that deter him, though, judging by my brief skimming of the rest of the book. I think there is an older English-language understanding of “studying” that’s less intense than research, and more complex than straight memorization. My impression is that these skills were supposed to be taught through the recitation, or, later, through the “study questions” in the text or workbook. In other words, the teacher’s questions weren’t just meant to test understanding of the material, or to provide opportunities for speaking and writing practice, but also to serve as patterns for the student to internalize and use in studying texts on his or her own. I’m not sure if most students (or teachers!) realized this was supposed to be happening, or how effective it was in any case. Nor do I know how any of this applies to EFL. But, just in case, I’m trying to keep this principle in mind when evaluating textbooks and study guides.
  11. I should add that I’ve stayed with the traditional recitation schedule as much as possible when using workbooks. This allows flexibility to respond to their individual progress on each topic. I’d never want to go back to scheduling assignments far in advance, especially with math and language skills. Every morning, I meet with each child, check their work from the previous day, and assign the corrections and the current day’s work by writing them in their planner (one line per subject). For the content subjects, which are less of a priority, I usually assign the work a week at a time. If I don’t want to have them do all the exercises on a page (which happens often with Seton books), I circle the numbers of the ones I want them to do, and make note of that. On the other hand, if they need more practice or I’m not happy with the book’s explanation, I might have them use a different book for a while, or make a mini supplemental workbook out of online worksheets. For the more expensive workbooks (e.g. the upper grade history books), I have them write the answers in a notebook. At that point, I’m not sure how much what we’re doing diverges from EFL’s mysterious “book lessons.”
  12. mms, your description of your day reminds me of where we were a couple of years ago. In my case, probably because of my lack of success at organizing the EFL type lessons, I got worried that our curriculum wasn’t broad enough and added in a bunch of history materials and a vintage religion program. That was a mistake. I think it would have been better if we’d just read through a good elementary text on each subject, with some supplemental books available on the shelf. That said, now that my eldest is doing outside high school classes, I’ve become more diligent about ramping up the conventional book work with the 8-12 year olds. (Currently we’re just using various Seton workbooks, because things were in a muddle when this past school year started.) The down side of this is that the languages have fallen by the wayside, with the exception of one that’s being taught by other people. It’s not what I’d prefer, but I can’t justify putting more on my plate if I’m not even keeping up with the basics (in all areas of our lives, not just academics). BTW, when teaching literature, I sometimes look stuff up on my phone and show it to them. Sometimes this is to answer a child’s question that I’m not sure about, or to clarify a definition of a word, but most often it’s for illustrations (e.g. bird song videos on YouTube). I have no idea what EFL would think of this, but given that my children see me doing this at other times as well, it seems natural for our family. It also gives me an opportunity to talk a bit to the older ones (around 10+) about online skills, e.g. searching and evaluating sources. Once upon a time, books were the “new media,” and people had to adjust to that. There were problems, but also great benefits. I think we’re at a similar transitional stage, and will have to use our own judgement and observational skills to determine a path forward.
  13. A simple topic, for those who are doing EFL-style lessons and have a range of ages. Do you keep them all in the room while you’re meeting with each child? Or do you let them (at some age) go elsewhere, and call them back one by one? Also, after they’ve met with you, at what age do you let them go off on their own to work on their assigned tasks?
  14. All punishments are reactive, including the alternatives I mentioned above, so surely this concern would apply to those as well. I agree that parents should pay attention and make use of preventative discipline. Along those lines, you might like the Dupanloup book. His thinking has a lot in common with St. John Bosco’s. ♥️
  15. In one of her books, EFL mentioned that her mother gained some of her disciplinary wisdom at school, where she was taught by the great Mother Mary Aloysia Hardey. Mother Hardey was an American whose English Catholic ancestors had arrived in Maryland in colonial times. Her mother is said to have been exceptionally devout and intelligent. The family moved to Louisiana, where Mary attended an academy run by the Society of the Sacred Heart, founded in France by St. Madeleine Sophie Barat and established in the United States by St. Rose Philippine Duchesne. Mary went on to join the order at a young age, and to take on their customs as her own. Thus, in dealing with children, Mother Hardey would have been able to draw on some of the best French, English, and American traditions. I’d be very interested in discussing the ideas of the Sacred Heart order, as well as those of the noted French educators Fenelon and Dupanloup. (EFL recommends Dupanloup’s The Child in one of the above columns.) I haven’t read a great deal about this, but my impression is that the traditional French approach to child-rearing tends to be firm, with high expectations, but also much warmer and gentler than the popular American image of “strict discipline.” This seems like something I could get behind. Editing to add link to Dupanloup’s The Child (1869). I can’t believe this has been out of print for so long! It’s really good, much better even than I was expecting, and very relevant to our discussions here. He also quotes Fenelon a lot, so it’s kind of a two-for-one. 😉
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