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ElizaG

Ella Frances Lynch thread #3: New Frontiers

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Hello!  I’ve been off the boards for a while due to some difficult circumstances; it’s good to be here again.  The “rigor” threads from last December were interesting to read.  I thought there might be some interest in a new thread on Ella Frances Lynch’s ideas about education.

Here’s EFL thread #2, which contains a link to the first big thread.  Other related threads might come up in a search.  Feel free to add links to those, to her books, etc.

I subtitled the thread “new frontiers” because I’ve been thinking a lot about questions that she either doesn’t address in her books, or addresses in ways that don’t seem to work for some present-day families (such as mine!).  For instance:

1)  How to develop good habits in ourselves and the children if we’re starting late, or just haven’t been doing a great job up to now.  Especially if, due to various influences, we can’t achieve the “simplicity of surroundings” that’s supposed to be a sine qua non.

2)  How to establish a backup plan, or a partial implementation of her ideas, for times when we’re not capable of the sort of personal attention that her system requires. 

3)  How to form alliances for personal support, since EFL’s network of teacher-mother groups is no longer, and DIY homeschoolers of any kind are becoming hard to find.

5) The place of modern technology in all this.

These are just a few possibilities for discussion.  Anything EFL-related would be welcome!

 

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Welcome back, @ElizaG.  Sorry to read that you have been facing struggles.  No help to your questions bc I don't know much about EFL.  

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So very good to see you, ElizaG!

Something must be in the air? water? because just this weekend, I was toying with the idea of starting EFL Thread 3.0, and I have many of the same questions as you. I like to reread at least one of EFL's books annually, and I am actually overdue, so that's one thing I'm going to do to try to get myself back in a better mindset. And renewed EFL-related conversation here on the boards would be wonderful!

Edited by LostCove
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Thanks, 8; I really appreciate that.  

LostCove, I’m sure EFL gave practical advice to many mothers who were indisposed, even if the subject is never mentioned in her books and articles.  I suppose nobody really talked about such things publicly back then.  She probably also wanted to focus on the positive.

Speaking of articles, I recently came across another bunch of her newspaper columns online, via scans of the Catholic Northwest Progress newspaper.   They’re quite readable, but the OCR had a hard time and they aren’t all showing up in a search.   The site does allow editing, so I’ve looked through all of the available issues for 1934 and 35 and corrected her name as needed.  Maybe someone else can help with the other years.  Her column appears from 1934 to 1940, but it isn’t in every issue.  In 1940, there are also a few very interesting contributions from Florence A. Burke, one of her teacher-mothers.

Some examples of the columns:

9 February 1934: “Mothers as Educators: Children Need a Home Course in Observation That Revolves Around the Throne of God” (I think this is the first one; it’s on the importance of astronomy, and how to prepare the child for it.)

16 February 1934: “Mothers as Educators” (continuation of the above)

23 February 1934: “Mothers as Educators:” 

9 March 1934: “Mothers as Educators”

6 April 1934: “Movie-Thrillers and Childhood”

13 April 1934: “Parental Appreciation of Study”

20 April 1934: “Beginning the Child’s Education”

25 May 1934: “Education’s Disciplinary Function”

10 August 1934: “Lefthandedness and Other Topics

5 March 1937: “Educating the Child at Home”

21 October 1938: “Teacher-Parents”

3 February 1939: “The Spoiled Child”

One of them contains her review of Fr. McGucken’s The Catholic Way in Education. She went on to mention this book often in her columns. She seemed sure that the US Catholic establishment would build his proposed classical school system (the Vittorino Schools), and that the children who had been homeschooled by her system would be found to be the most qualified for it.  Of course, his plan was never put into action.  More broadly, it was during these years that the NCWC and CUA crowds won out decisively over EFL and the Jesuits.  I’ll stop there, to avoid getting ranty, LOL.

Edited by ElizaG
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Here’s a description of the Vittorino model, from a Jesuit Educational Quarterly article about 20th century writings on the Ratio Studiorum.  The system isn’t really applicable to homeschooling, but it’s an interesting read.

On a more practical note, I’d like to discuss the place of movies, TV, video games, and online activities in the EFL-ish home environment.  The article listed above on “Movie Thrillers” gives an example of her views on the media of her day (e.g. Cecil B. DeMille’s films).  

This is an area where I’ve certainly been more liberal than EFL, and DH is inclined to be more liberal than I am, so if her concerns are valid, my children’s brains are probably all thoroughly addled.  It’s a depressing thought.  Still, I’m hoping (or at least trying to hope) that if I can come to a better understanding of the factors involved, I’ll be able to set some guidelines that are both prudent and realistic. 

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The lockdown has been accentuating technology issues in our house as well.  Around here, though, most of the increased screen time is being used for online face-to-face “meetings,” which seem relatively innocuous even by EFL‘s standards.  (The small-group ones, that is.  The large-group ones tend to be kind of chaotic.)  I’d even say that this experience has made me more open to video tutoring for the older children, even in core subjects.  I think it’s a compromise we might have to make, in our time, if we want a more traditional approach to languages and literature.  


EFL’s objections to movies go beyond the time spent, or the ordinary moral concerns about content. For instance, she believes that repeated exposure to spectacular scenes, achieved via special effects, is likely to weaken the child’s sense of wonder and make even God’s majesty seem less impressive.  She‘s also concerned that the concentrated stimulus provided by movie images will overwhelm the child’s mind, disconnecting the intellect from the will, and producing effects rather similar to drunkenness.

I think these points do make some sense, and I’d like to consider them seriously.  At the same time, it would be very difficult to forego any sort of movie or TV watching, especially if we’re trying to raise children who are more or less culturally literate.  And much of what our family watches is pretty low-key, e.g. short travel and DIY videos (mostly on YouTube).  After thinking it over, my main concern right now is about popular, exciting series such as Thomas, and movies such as Star Wars. This is partly because I tend to doubt their value (moral or otherwise), and partly because they seem to take over the children’s attention and push out other interests.  DH is often enthusiastic about these shows as well, and tie-in books and toys have a way of appearing.  I feel like my house is being invaded by a corporate entertainment behemoth.  At the same time, I also feel like a bit of a crank, since most people wouldn’t consider these shows objectionable.  


I’m also wondering where EFL got her ideas about the media.  Much of what she’s saying ties in with media ecology, but that field hadn’t been created yet.  Maybe there was research being done at the time, or maybe Thomism is the link.  Or she might just have observed these things happening.  
 

BTW, Florence mentioned her children having their favorite radio programs, and they all seemed to be EFL success stories.  I guess audio isn’t supposed to have the same effects (though EFL does warn against having it constantly on in the background; she’s a firm believer in the value of silence).  So this advice is at least less restrictive than John Senior’s!

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My oldest two have done a weekly zoom with some friends since the lockdown - I've been struck by how much sillier they are than when they are socializing in person, similar to how my six year old spends all his facetime with his grandparents watching himself make faces. Maybe that's just the novelty of it, though, since they're all homeschooled kids mostly from families that have pretty limited screen time. 

Ordinary Shoes, I think you are right about John Senior's approval or not often corresponding to what was around in his boyhood, but I do still think there is something to this idea that exposure to un-real images that are more exciting and stimulating that children's experiences would otherwise be can have some kind of lasting effect, at least at certain dosages. And there are other things I'm sure we'd all agree that aren't developmentally appropriate for children to be exposed to - shielding them from those isn't manipulating them. So it's a question of whether certain types of media or maybe certain amounts of it fall into that category. 

We visited the Grand Canyon this year and met a couple on the trail who were surprised by our children's enthusiasm and said that their kids had chosen to stay back in the car. I just can't believe that's a natural response - you have to be taught somehow not to be impressed by the Grand Canyon! Maybe not by special effects alone but something did it, and I think it's right to be concerned about it.

That being said, I have to hope the dosage does make a difference, because I just don't see us giving up all movies and shows here, even some of questionable value, at least not until I have a nanny to occupy the toddler when I am under the weather or certain relatives that we want to spend time with decide to take up other hobbies. And you know, I was a pretty Star Wars obsessed kid, but I was still awestruck by the Grand Canyon. Although I did also have slower childhood experiences of natural reality, too, which seem to be less and less the case for children today. So there was the galaxy far far away, but also the Milky Way, which I saw every summer at camp. And maybe it was even all the more striking to me because I could not see it in daily life. Actually, wasn't that also kind of true for John Senior? Didn't he grow up in suburbia on Long Island but spent his summers working on a ranch in Montana or something? So apparently that's how you create sentimental idealists, lol, although I suspect being the mom forces me into contact with other concrete realities that Senior's own experience of was more...vicarious.

Anyway, I think we are stuck muddling through this one for the most part. I think most of us can tell when our kids have had too much of various kinds of media and different kids do seem to be sensitive to greater or lesser degree. I have one kid who cannot tear himself away from any screen whatever and another who really could take it or leave it. Staggering exposure to some things has helped here - for example, only my eldest has seen Star Wars yet (he watched it on a solo outing with his grandfather) so his interest has waxed and waned without taking over the other children's interest. For our family, any show or movie totally crowding out other interests would also be a signal that some kind of change is needed. I always have better success, though, when I put my energy into making sure there are other interesting things to do (preparing the environment, you might say) and only then cut back on screen time or disappear a particular show from our family's viewing options or whatever. And sometimes I don't have the energy to do that and well, that's life. You said it, OS, things can't always be "just so." It does help that my husband and I are pretty much on the same page about screen-based media, I think largely because his family watched stuff like Married with Kids and Hellraiser when he was a tot, so he has no nostalgia for Thomas or Star Wars or whatever, ha. Although he probably makes up for it in the overstimulating recorded music that he plays all the time - so. much. prog rock. 😆

One last thought that I've been mulling over recently, but more in the context of computer technology: I'm not sure how far this can go, but it might be helpful to think of some types of media as analogous to toys. EFL, unlike Montessori, isn't really opposed to toys, though she strongly advocates for home-made ones over boughten. So another thing to consider in evaluating our family's media consumption might be whether it promotes any kind of self-activity or not. Maybe giving kids access to (real) tools so they can be creators and not just consumers of some types of media would be another way to handle this issue.

Edited by LostCove
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On 5/12/2020 at 9:23 AM, ElizaG said:

Hello!  I’ve been off the boards for a while due to some difficult circumstances; it’s good to be here again.  The “rigor” threads from last December were interesting to read.  I thought there might be some interest in a new thread on Ella Frances Lynch’s ideas about education.

Here’s EFL thread #2, which contains a link to the first big thread.  Other related threads might come up in a search.  Feel free to add links to those, to her books, etc.

I subtitled the thread “new frontiers” because I’ve been thinking a lot about questions that she either doesn’t address in her books, or addresses in ways that don’t seem to work for some present-day families (such as mine!).  For instance:

1)  How to develop good habits in ourselves and the children if we’re starting late, or just haven’t been doing a great job up to now.  Especially if, due to various influences, we can’t achieve the “simplicity of surroundings” that’s supposed to be a sine qua non.

2)  How to establish a backup plan, or a partial implementation of her ideas, for times when we’re not capable of the sort of personal attention that her system requires. 

3)  How to form alliances for personal support, since EFL’s network of teacher-mother groups is no longer, and DIY homeschoolers of any kind are becoming hard to find.

5) The place of modern technology in all this.

These are just a few possibilities for discussion.  Anything EFL-related would be welcome!

 

Ahh number 1 is kind of the story of my life 

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21 hours ago, ElizaG said:

The lockdown has been accentuating technology issues in our house as well.  Around here, though, most of the increased screen time is being used for online face-to-face “meetings,” which seem relatively innocuous even by EFL‘s standards.  (The small-group ones, that is.  The large-group ones tend to be kind of chaotic.)  I’d even say that this experience has made me more open to video tutoring for the older children, even in core subjects.  I think it’s a compromise we might have to make, in our time, if we want a more traditional approach to languages and literature.  


EFL’s objections to movies go beyond the time spent, or the ordinary moral concerns about content. For instance, she believes that repeated exposure to spectacular scenes, achieved via special effects, is likely to weaken the child’s sense of wonder and make even God’s majesty seem less impressive.  She‘s also concerned that the concentrated stimulus provided by movie images will overwhelm the child’s mind, disconnecting the intellect from the will, and producing effects rather similar to drunkenness.

I think these points do make some sense, and I’d like to consider them seriously.  At the same time, it would be very difficult to forego any sort of movie or TV watching, especially if we’re trying to raise children who are more or less culturally literate.  And much of what our family watches is pretty low-key, e.g. short travel and DIY videos (mostly on YouTube).  After thinking it over, my main concern right now is about popular, exciting series such as Thomas, and movies such as Star Wars. This is partly because I tend to doubt their value (moral or otherwise), and partly because they seem to take over the children’s attention and push out other interests.  DH is often enthusiastic about these shows as well, and tie-in books and toys have a way of appearing.  I feel like my house is being invaded by a corporate entertainment behemoth.  At the same time, I also feel like a bit of a crank, since most people wouldn’t consider these shows objectionable.  


I’m also wondering where EFL got her ideas about the media.  Much of what she’s saying ties in with media ecology, but that field hadn’t been created yet.  Maybe there was research being done at the time, or maybe Thomism is the link.  Or she might just have observed these things happening.  
 

BTW, Florence mentioned her children having their favorite radio programs, and they all seemed to be EFL success stories.  I guess audio isn’t supposed to have the same effects (though EFL does warn against having it constantly on in the background; she’s a firm believer in the value of silence).  So this advice is at least less restrictive than John Senior’s!

Completely devoid of relation to EFL, my experience with my children is that the answers to these questions are not a simple universal one-size-fits-all.  Our Aspie definitely has an addictive personality.  When he was little, electronic consumption was his source of addiction.  His behaviors were always worse when he watched TV.  He also completely zoned out of his surroundings and was definitely "immersed" in the TV's world.  Equally, I have other kids who are more like me who are totally bored watching TV.  They cannot just "sit and watch." They watch TV but only while being occupied with something else: cross-stitching, building a puzzle, sketching, etc.  

Bc of our Aspie, we never allowed video games into our home.  I knew that was a battle I did not want to face.  He played them at other people's homes and their addictive value was higher than TV. As an adult, he has figured it out about himself. He will set strict time limits on himself.  But, as a child, it would have been a daily war. Again, I don't think it would have been a big deal for our some of our other children.  It would have been a source of entertainment that they could have engaged in and walked away at will. Either way, I have zero regrets for not allowing video games in our home.  It is not a "cultural" loss.  My other kids really don't care and it is one time suck we have never had to deal with.

In terms of shows and toys, we are selective.  My dh grew up watching Star Wars.  He loves the movies.  Our kids had more Star War Legos sets than I can count.  They loved the movies.  They can recite lines from them.  Same with LOTR and action figures. My girls had/have Barbies, watched Barbie movies. Same with American Girl Dolls, etc. As far as what they watch and what toys they had/have, for me the messages being absorbed and witnessed in their behaviors that determined what they could watch and what toys we would buy.  Even many of the seemingly "innocuous" children's shows model behaviors or teach messages that I did/do not want my kids absorbing.  So, for our family anyway, it is about being a discerning consumer.  Know what they are watching and be OK with the themes/messages/behaviors being sent.  

I 100% disagree that somehow TV shows or movies in some way undermine reveling in God's majesty.  Children also have the ability to understand the difference between story and reality.  The premise seems to be along the same line that fairy tales or mythology undermines faith.  If their faith is that fragile and untested, it won't survive adulthood.  And, believe me, they will be adults before you know it. 

No only do our children need to be resilient as adults, you really want them to understand the whys of the parenting choices you made when they were children.  Adult-child parental relationships are built upon the trust and understanding formed when they were little.  Adult children will 100% form their own opinions on their childhood. And they will see the situations from their perspective, not ours.  

From my perspective, it is about balance.  TV has a place in our lives.  But, it is off more than it is on.  We enjoy family movies. Last night we watch Avengers End Game on a projector in our backyard while making smores. It was a beautiful night and it made life seem normal.  Doesn't change the fact that we also say family rosaries.  🙂

 

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Given that we’ve all been heavily exposed to numerous forms of technology and media, I think we’re likely to underestimate the effect that spectacles have on a naive audience.  For instance, in the Victorian era, when science was captivating the imagination of the public, the typical image of the scientist involved the sensational public demonstration.  I do think these experiences probably contributed somewhat to the weakening of religious faith at the time, and especially to the transfer of authority from religious figures to scientific ones.  In a different context, we could also consider phenomena such as cargo cults.

Perhaps, with repeated exposure, this becomes less of a problem.  Or perhaps we just take the effects for granted.  For instance, a web search on the words “technology” + “miracles” shows how readily the language of the supernatural is used, in our time, to describe the human manipulation of nature.

It’s almost a moot point, since I doubt we could do much to limit gee-whiz effects in general.  Our media are saturated with them.  (They even add them into wildlife documentaries, much to my annoyance.)  Still, I’ll try to take more care with the youngest ones, below the age of reason - who, in my family at least, do not really understand reality vs. fantasy.

Now I’m wondering whether EFL would have considered cartoons to be better (because they’re obviously unreal), or worse (because they’re more unnatural).  🤔

Edited by ElizaG
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Thank you, ElizaG, for starting the discussion again. There has definitely been a void on this board during your absence!
 

I am reading more than contributing because I have always struggled with screen addictions, a major reason we did not have internet at home for years. That changed in a major way when I got a smart phone to keep up with group texts for the children’s activities and the baby’s therapies. Now, DH has been working remotely so we are completely wired and the children have two parents who are on screens all day long.  To me this highlights the fact that screen addictions are a different beast from other addictions because unless one lives in an Amish community, technology is essential to our lives. It also highlighted the positives for me because having DH be at home has been a giant blessing, especially for DS1. We’re actually floating around the idea of finishing the garage and installing a cable internet connection there so that it is physically removed from the house, but that is more of a long term project and meanwhile I need to figure out how to self-regulate before I think about expanding limits for the children.
 

We have mostly stuck to low doses of screens for the children by continuing to allow only Russian movies at home and thankfully FaceTime with grandma got old for them pretty fast. DD2 actually switched to writing her grandma letters. Eldest got really upset over zoom sessions with her friends because it was not at all fulfilling her social needs and she had an even harder time interacting than she does in person. The younger ones are more self-sufficient in their sibling friendships and don’t seem to need the same level of interaction with peers that DD needs. 
 

But, even so, we can’t keep pop culture at bay. They saw Star Wars elsewhere and for my son at least it became an all consuming passion for a while. I allowed the Harry Potter books into the house in Russian and the flood gates for HP related gifts opened up and we now have Harry Potter barbies and other paraphernalia. Ugh. It’s not that bad because their imaginative play is still far more heavily influenced by their own creations and when pop culture characters invade they definitely take on a unique flavor, but it still saddens me.

More than the technology itself,  I have really been concerned about the way our society encourages escapism. One does not even need technology to escape from reality, but I think in EFL’s time communities were still intact enough and physical work was necessary enough that I suspect escapist tendencies were harder to indulge. 
 

I look forward to continuing these discussions. Following EFL’s methods with the youngsters has been very beneficial, however imperfect the execution and I am really interested in discussing how to apply the principles as the children get older.  I will add, the silver lining of this crisis has really made me far more comfortable with completely abandoning all outside expectations whether as they related to college admissions or even concerns about how my children will earn a living. Realizing how precarious even the American system is cemented a desire for me to focus on the permanent things that have value for their own sake rather than planning with more practical goals in view.  Abandoning any resemblance to home “school” was a thought experiment for a long time and now I am committed to it in practice.

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On 5/11/2020 at 7:53 PM, ElizaG said:

 

1)  How to develop good habits in ourselves and the children if we’re starting late, or just haven’t been doing a great job up to now.  Especially if, due to various influences, we can’t achieve the “simplicity of surroundings” that’s supposed to be a sine qua non.

2)  How to establish a backup plan, or a partial implementation of her ideas, for times when we’re not capable of the sort of personal attention that her system requires. 

3)  How to form alliances for personal support, since EFL’s network of teacher-mother groups is no longer, and DIY homeschoolers of any kind are becoming hard to find.

5) The place of modern technology in all this.

These are just a few possibilities for discussion.  Anything EFL-related would be welcome!

 

Golly ElizaG, start of with easy questions that have simple answers why don’t you!


ETA: to go along with what I said above about feeling freed from expectations since covid started. One thing I have decided to do to address all of the above is to do far less than I would like but do it well.

Edited by mms
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Not sure what happened to #4.  Sorry!  😀

Regarding #1 (habits), I’ve been thinking about the bit quoted above, and how it squares with her other writings.  On the one hand, she makes these categorical statements about the child’s habits being formed by age seven.  On the other hand, she says that every mother who’s willing, and isn’t otherwise occupied, can follow her system with success.  Even in her day, I suspect there were plenty of mothers whose habits were far from the ideal.  (Catharine Beecher was writing about such women in the 1860s.)  So clearly there’s some cause for hope - either that we can improve on a fundamental level, or that we can find ways to get the job done despite our flaws.  

How it works is what I’m not sure about.  I think there has to be a spiritual component, and perhaps also a complete change of environment (as in Fr. Finn’s boarding school stories).  But I can’t achieve the latter for myself, and I’m not sure it’s feasible for my older children, either.  So, is there another way?

Edited by ElizaG
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8 hours ago, mms said:

One thing I have decided to do to address all of the above is to do far less than I would like but do it well.

Yes, I’m also starting to have more respect for my limitations.  I just read a very helpful passage from Catharine Beecher that relates to this.  This is from The American Woman’s Home (1869 edition).

Yet there are many allowances to be made for housekeepers, who sometimes imperceptibly and unconsciously fall into such habits [of bad temper]. A woman who attempts to carry out any plans of system, order, and economy, and who has her feelings and habits conformed to certain rules, is constantly liable to have her plans crossed, and her taste violated, by the inexperience or inattention of those about her. And no housekeeper, whatever may be her habits, can escape the frequent recurrence of negligence or mistake, which interferes with her plans. 

It is probable that there is no class of persons in the world who have such incessant trials of temper, and temptations to be fretful, as American housekeepers. For a housekeeper's business is not, like that of the other 
sex, limited to a particular department, for which previous preparation is made. It consists of ten thousand little disconnected items, which can never be so systematically arranged that there is no daily jostling somewhere. And in the best-regulated families, it is not unfrequently the case that some act of forgetfulness or carelessness, from some member, will disarrange the business of the whole day, so that every hour will bring renewed occasion for annoyance. And the more strongly a woman realizes the value of time, and the importance of system and order, the more will she be tempted to irritability and complaint. 

The following considerations may aid in preparing a woman to meet such daily crosses with even a cheerful temper and tones. 

In the first place, a woman who has charge of a large household should regard her duties as dignified, important, and difficult. The mind is so made as to be elevated and cheered by a sense of far-reaching influence and usefulness. A woman who feels that she is a cipher, and that it makes little difference how she performs her duties, has far less to sustain and invigorate her, than one who truly estimates the importance of her station. A man who feels that the 
destinies of a nation are turning on the judgment and skill with which he plans and executes, has a pressure of motive and an elevation of feeling which are great safeguards against all that is low, trivial, and degrading. 

So, an American mother and housekeeper who rightly estimates the long train of influence which will pass down to thousands, whose destinies, from generation to generation, will be modified by those decisions of her will 
which regulate the temper, principles, and habits of her family, must be elevated above petty temptations which 
would otherwise assail her. 

Again, a housekeeper should feel that she really had great difficulties to meet and overcome. A person who wrongly thinks there is little danger, can never maintain so faithful a guard as one who rightly estimates the temptations which beset her. Nor can one who thinks that they are trifling difficulties which she has to encounter, and trivial temptations to which she must yield, so much enjoy the just reward of conscious virtue and self-control as one who takes an opposite view of the subject. 

A third method is, for a woman deliberately to calculate on having her best-arranged plans interfered with very often; and to be in such a state of preparation that the evil will not come unawares. So complicated are the pursuits and so diverse the habits of the various members of a family, that it is almost impossible for every one to avoid interfering with the plans and taste of a housekeeper, in some one point or another. It is, therefore, most wise for a woman to keep the loins of her mind ever girt, to meet such collisions with a cheerful and quiet spirit. 

Another important rule is, to form all plans and arrangements in consistency with the means at command, and the 
character of those around. A woman who has a heedless husband, and young children, and incompetent domestics, 
ought not to make such plans as one may properly form who will not, in so many directions, meet embarrassment. She must aim at just as much as she can probably attain, and no more; and thus she will usually escape much temptation, and much of the irritation of disappointment. 

The fifth, and a very important consideration, is, that system, economy, and neatness are valuable, only so far as they tend to promote the comfort and well-being of those affected. Some women seem to act under the impression that these advantages must be secured, at all events, even if the comfort of the family be the sacrifice. True, it is very important that children grow up in habits of system, neatness, and order ; and it is very desirable that the mother give them every incentive, both by precept and example; but it is still more important that they grow up with amiable tempers, that they learn to meet the crosses of life with patience and cheerfulness; and nothing has a greater influence to secure this than a mother's example. Whenever, therefore, a woman can not accomplish her plans of neatness and order without injury to her own temper or to the temper of others, she ought to modify and reduce 
them until she can. 

The sixth method relates to the government of the tones of voice. In many cases, when a woman's domestic arrangements are suddenly and seriously crossed, it is impossible not to feel some irritation. But it is always possible to refrain from angry tones. A woman can resolve that, whatever happens, she will not speak till she can do it in a calm and gentle manner. Perfect silence is a safe resort, when such control can not be attained as enables a person to speak calmly; and this determination, persevered in, will eventually be crowned with success. 

(The fact that she devoted a whole chapter to “the preservation of good temper in the housekeeper” says something in itself!)

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1 hour ago, ElizaG said:

 

Regarding #1 (habits), I’ve been thinking about the bit quoted above, and how it squares with her other writings.  On the one hand, she makes these categorical statements about the child’s habits being formed by age seven.  On the other hand, she says that every mother who’s willing, and isn’t otherwise occupied, can follow her system with success.  Even in her day, I suspect there were plenty of mothers whose habits were far from the ideal.  (Catharine Beecher was writing about such women in the 1860s.)  So clearly there’s some cause for hope - either that we can improve on a fundamental level, or that we can find ways to get the job done despite our flaws.  

How it works is what I’m not sure about.  I think there has to be a spiritual component, and perhaps also a complete change of environment (as in Fr. Finn’s boarding school stories).  But I can’t achieve the latter for myself, and I’m not sure it’s feasible for my older children, either.  So, is there another way?

 

1 hour ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

1) One of her articles directly addresses this question. "Habits of reverence, diligence, economy, patience, persistence, and hard work are formed early or not at all." That's depressing. 

That premise defies the belief that we can reform our will with the help of grace.  The lives of several saints belies its reality.  Goodness, our 7 yr old selves do not have to reflect the only possibility of our future self!!  It seems the opposite of the understanding of the role of grace in our lives. 

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1 minute ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

 

That premise defies the belief that we can reform our will with the help of grace.  The lives of several saints belies its reality.  Goodness, thank goodness our 7 yr old selves do not have to reflect the only possibility of our future self.  It seems the opposite of the understanding of the role of grace in our lives. 

EFL was a well-formed Catholic whose books and articles were endorsed by numerous priests and bishops.  Given this, and what she’s written elsewhere, I don’t think her comments can be read as denying the possibility of grace. 
 

After reflecting on this, my understanding is that, when she says “are formed ... or not at all,” she’s referring to the child’s habits being formed in a somewhat passive way, through the parent‘s efforts.  Certainly, with my older children, I can see that they’re only going to be able to change their habits through their own efforts.  In both cases, of course, God’s assistance is essential.  

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2 hours ago, ElizaG said:

EFL was a well-formed Catholic whose books and articles were endorsed by numerous priests and bishops.  Given this, and what she’s written elsewhere, I don’t think her comments can be read as denying the possibility of grace. 
After reflecting on this, my understanding is that, when she says “are formed ... or not at all,” she’s referring to the child’s habits being formed in a somewhat passive way, through the parent‘s efforts.  Certainly, with my older children, I can see that they’re only going to be able to change their habits through their own efforts.  In both cases, of course, God’s assistance is essential.  

I wasn't disparaging her. I know nothing about her or her writings. My comment was directed toward your question and the quote that Ordinary Shoes posted. Your follow up pt is in line with the idea of age of reason. Not in an offensive way at all, but my response to the fact that she is a well-formed Catholic endorsed by numerous priests is  a non-judgmental shrug.  Our understanding of child development and the lives of children in general are not equivalent to how children lived 100 yrs ago.  (If you don't want a non-EFL perspective, I am happy to bow out of the conversation.  We live in a society today where "children first" is a slogan.  That is a radical shift in human interaction.)

My experience raising my kids is that that perspective is not overly helpful in the scheme of raising children to adulthood.  Raising children, especially in a homeschooling environment, is  complex bc of the intertwined roles of parent, teacher, guidance counselor meshed together in a modern world with different objectives academically/careers than 100 yrs ago. We don't have to be perfect parents getting everything right in early childhood.  We can do our best and later on recognize that we were flat out wrong. We can shift gears and change course. Bad habits are way harder to break than instilling good habits to begin with. (Very CM and very true.) But, we are all human and we all fail and learn from our mistakes. We see the outcomes in our children's behaviors, and we get smacked with the reality that we need to recognize that we are responsible for those bad habits.  My parenting for child 1 was way different than my parenting for child 8.  Live and learn.  That is human.

@mms You might appreciate this quote from CM's Philosophy of Education:

Quote

There is too much learning and too little work. The teacher ready to use the powers that his training and experience have given him works too hard while the boy’s share in the struggle is too light. It is possible to make education too easy for children and to rob learning of the mental discipline which often wearies but in the end produces concentration and the capacity to work alone.”

Work doesn't have to be just physical. 😉  We can make learning both compelling and require effort. My personal opinion is that textbooks are often the equivalent of educational escapism.  Capsulate information and just let them receive what they need.  Reading whole books can require synthesizing effort which is a huge accomplishment which is simply a shift in choices. 

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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The great majority of EFL’s writings are about children up to age seven.  When I first came across her work, I already had multiple children who were older than that.  I haven’t even done a great job in implementing her ideas with the younger ones.  In my homeschool, apart from a few lovely but all too brief periods, her system has been honored more in the breach than in the observance. But I still think it’s sound, based on my own limited experience, her extensive track record, and the way it harmonizes with other noteworthy educational traditions.  I also believe that the nature of children is still pretty much the same as it was in her time, or even in ancient times for that matter.  So I believe she has a lot to offer.  Beyond that, as someone said above, we’re all just muddling through here.  

For those who are interested, this old thread has links to several more of EFL’s articles, as well as some coverage of her homeschool activism.  (The discussion reminds me of how much I miss Hunter!)  If anyone is able to access the Child Welfare magazine articles about “Book Lessons,” which are only available in snippet view, I’m sure many of us would appreciate a summary.  

The link to her 1940 pamphlet, “The Renegade Home,” is no longer working, and I can’t find it elsewhere on the Notre Dame web site.  I wonder if they took it down for copyright reasons.  It’s too bad, but I guess the Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.  😉

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@Ordinary Shoes Your questions are good ones.  My response is similar to my electronics and addictiveness  answer.  There is no simple "parent this way and it will produce x child behavior outcomes."  Kids are individuals and who they are and how they respond is uniquely them.  I have 2 kids (now adults) that if they were the only 2 kids I had ever had, then I would pat myself on the back and think, "wow, are an awesome parent! You did things right!!" But I know it isn't me at all.  It is them, who they are, and, more importantly, who they choose to be. I have another child that has kept me on me knees in prayer (and in tears) bc wow, sometimes the choices made are just overwhelmingly poor ones; I wonder what we could have done differently to lead to greater discernment in choices. Free will is exactly that.  We can teach, train, guide, but ultimately, no, at some pt we can no longer control and the choices are theirs.

In terms of corporeal punishment, I agree that that is not good pearenting and not effective at teaching them to control their will.  However, I do think how we parent can impact how our children respond to our requests and demands. Consistency and follow through (restrictions) are far more effective than idle threats follow by anger at lack of compliance.  But consistent parenting with boundary enforcement is far more about our controlling our will (takes a lot of effort) than threatening and getting angry (lazy parenting). 

I had a laugh at your pants comment.  I have an aversion to wearing dresses/skirts.  I am a ponytail/tshirt/capri person.  Glad skirts/dresses aren't a precursor requirement for living a holy life!

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15 hours ago, Ordinary Shoes said:

So we cajoled, encouraged, bargained, and modeled. It's not ideal but is it a worthwhile tradeoff to avoid physical violence? 

 

Well almost anything is better than smacking a kid around.

But those aren't the only two options, of course. 

What did EFL say about punishing* kids under 7? I only have one of her books and I don't recall anything about it in there. That doesn't mean it's not there, mind you 🙂 

 

Sorry I just saw that this was originally submitted as "punching"...good grief that changes the meaning!! Sorry, I was really asking what EFL says about punishment/child training.

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This thread is getting confusing.  If you’d like to criticize EFL’s ideas, please stick to what she actually wrote and refrain from throwing in other stuff that bothers you.  E.g., from what I've seen, she never said anything about ponytails, or about the relative intelligence of boys and girls, and I’m quite sure she never recommended threatening or getting angry.  In fact, she was even against parents scolding their children.  There’s a lot to discuss on that point alone!

BTW, in the 1930s, the USA was known worldwide for its progressive, child-centered schools.  World War II put a damper on those experiments, and the relative conservatism of the postwar era continued into the 1960s.  In the late 1960s, there was a resurgence of progressive ideas, but I’m not sure that the public schools even in that period were as extreme as those in the 30s.  Not on as wide a scale, anyway.  

EFL was opposed to just about all the conventional public school methods of the early 20th century, and agreed with many of the progressives’ ideas (e.g. individualized instruction, “learning by doing,” and attention to vocational skills).  She also favored the simplification of domestic life, another idea shared by the progressive movement. She was more traditional on the subject of discipline, though, and was strongly opposed to both “permissive parenting” and the behavioristic advice that was being given at the time.  (Many Christians shared her views on behaviorism, because it took no account of the soul.)

In other words, she lived in modern times, and was familiar with modern ideas.  Her response to those ideas was based on her faith, reasoning, and experience, and not on some wholesale rejection of everything new.  

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To follow up on the original question, I do know of some parents who have similar overall child-rearing ideals to EFL’s and have successfully used alternatives to spanking, mostly because of specific circumstances (e.g. foster children).  With younger children, the parents just used some consistent punishment such as the “naughty step” or standing in the corner.  The ones who had used both methods did typically say that spanking was more effective and much less drawn-out, but that they were eventually able to get similar results with the other methods.

I don’t have anything personal to add, because I’ve done an inconsistent job with every method of discipline I’ve tried.  When I’m on top of things, we have very little need for punishment of any kind.  When I’m not, punishments are generally ineffective.  I really need to do a better job of resisting internal and external distractions.  (Now I’m wishing we still had that running-away smiley!)

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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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6 hours ago, ElizaG said:

This thread is getting confusing.  If you’d like to criticize EFL’s ideas, please stick to what she actually wrote and refrain from throwing in other stuff that bothers you.  E.g., from what I've seen, she never said anything about ponytails, or about the relative intelligence of boys and girls, and I’m quite sure she never recommended threatening or getting angry.  In fact, she was even against parents scolding their children.  There’s a lot to discuss on that point alone!

 

Again, my response was to @Ordinary Shoes' post, not a comment on EFL's personal teachings.  I am going to just bow out of this thread since it isn't meant to be a genearlized conversation.

FWIW, my very firm belief is that corporeal punishment is reactive discipline.  Proactive parenting focuses on being responsive and supportive.  It means being aware of potential issues before they become a problem and creating environments where children are enabled in controlling their responses vs. parents threatening physical force in order to get them to comply.  IMHO, reactive parenting should be addressed equally as childhood behavioral issues.

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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.  ♥️

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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?

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9 hours ago, ElizaG said:

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?

I've been thinking about how I want to handle this next year. I will have a 3yo, 5yo, 7yo, 10yo, and 12yo to manage. What I would like to do is meet with the two oldest children to go over their assignments for the day, then dismiss them to work independently, then have them come back and go over their work with me when they are done. What I have actually always done in practice is that we have morning prayers and usually some group work, then I send the older two to do some independent work (copywork, math, that kind of thing) or take turns occupying the littlest one, while I work with the two littler ones first (the 6yo got some assigned independent tasks this year - mostly copywork and then he just started EFL math towards the end of the year). Then I dismiss them for the day, and work with the two older ones, usually, again, youngest to oldest. I can generally get through everyone except the oldest before lunch. I'm not sure if that will be true this coming year, though. 

We usually spread out over two large connected common areas in our house. Some kids are more sensitive about noise than others, so we kind of wind up with a (relatively) quiet room and then the room that I'm in working with whichever kid. I would only trust the almost-12 to work in his room by himself, although he usually chooses to work out in the common area with us. 

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10 hours ago, ElizaG said:

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?

So, my execution of EFL’s methods is far below my ambitions but so far what I have found to work is to start off with the two older girls doing math. DD11 works on math for the whole first hour and DD8 does her EFL arithmetic lesson or Miquon worksheet depending on my goal for the day and then moves on to other independent work (copywork & memorizing poetry/Bible). Meanwhile I am near by finishing up my morning chores, helping out/teaching as needed.  Both girls like working independently but I have learned the hard way that this is not ideal. So, I make sure to supervise closely and actually teach. I probably direct teach math way more than EFL (or Art Robinson, lol) would approve of, but less than what is the norm on these boards. When I feel like I am on a roll and have a good amount of patience I call DS who is usually playing outside after his morning chores are finished. He and I are in the next room from the girls. DD3 is usually playing with her box of homeschool toys/manipulatives nearby. When DS is done we have our group lessons. At this point the younger three run off to play for a bit before lunch and eldest decides whether she will keep working or not.  Sometime in the afternoon, usually after I have had a chance to rest or even nap, the girls corner me to do their language lessons. Those are my non-negotiable no multi-tasking one-on-one tutorials with each girl and it helps if I am rested. DD3 does not have scheduled time with me. So far I have unfortunately neglected her, except trying to do something small like teach her a poem from time to time. I need to get more intentional about fitting her in.

Those are our good days. On bad days, when I am in pain or severely sleep deprived or whatever, the girls mostly work independently and DH steps in to help out with the girls especially since he’s been home.  On those days I really only have enough energy to answer questions and teach DS. This past year with baby DS’s health issues there have unfortunately been more bad days than good.

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Can we talk about the middles in EFL’s system? What new resources have y’all discovered for the preparatory school age group?
So far my favorite resource is Building Great Sentences by Brooks Landon and Image Grammar for composition. I’ve been trying to work through these myself and then create sentence imitation exercises on the fly. But, that takes a lot of work. I’m hoping it will be more streamlined and autopilot with future children.
Mostly we are still focusing on dictation and occasional group EFL composition lessons with the older girls.  We’re finally going through Miles Standish. I found a really good study guide which is unfortunately out of print that has made it far easier for me to teach this poem. But, I still feel like I am grasping at straws trying to figure out what my goals are and where we are heading. Also trying to figure out what academic subjects other than language and math should be essential at this stage. Do we continue with unschooling science and history, do I add more structure and require daily work in those subjects? Formal religion curriculum or continue reading good books and discussing the Catechism? It seems like the languages require so much time that I am loathe to change anything, but maybe my expectations are too low.

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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.
 

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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.”  

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mms, as you know, I'm pretty much in the same spot as you with similar questions. I have been thinking about teaching study skills for my "7th grader." In my imagination, this would be a way to start to move towards more formal study of the content subjects, but somehow without me having to do a lot of work teaching the content subjects, lol. In reality, someone has to teach him said study skills, and that someone is me. So, yeah, not sure about that one yet. 

After spending too much time trying to work up something on my own, I've decided to use the Aldine Language Books this year for my 10yo and 12yo, probably supplemented with the Baker/Carpenter Language Readers or the Everyday Classics series for more reading. The Aldine books seem to finish in a pretty good spot from which to start Model English in 9th grade. 

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Well, Latin and math have been good for teaching study skills here. I think that is the one great advantage of MP’s First Form, there is a lot of scaffolding to teach the skill of studying for a test, lol; I just hope it also translates into some knowledge of Latin. Also, DD11 and I have been slowly reading Study is Hard Work and discussing how to implement his suggestions. Most of it is too advanced for her but It is at least getting her to think about the fact that study has its own set of learnable tools, jargon and skills just like baking, gardening and bike riding. I don’t know, that still seems like overkill to me and we’re only doing it because she is thinking about taking a high school history class at co-op next year.

 Most of my study skills I learned in 8th through 10th and then just needed to fine tune a few things in college.  I have been loathe to teach her how to take notes before she realizes that there is a need to know how to do so (ie contrive exercises for the sole purpose of teaching how to take notes) but I think that day is fast approaching, esp if she enrolls in that class. Already she is finding that her gardening notebook, for example, is a good place for keeping notes of her gardening related reading. At some point I hope to show her how to be more efficient as a note taker.
 

But, I keep coming back to those old course catalogs that we passed around several years back and can’t help but reflect on the fact that 10 to 12 used to be the beginning of an education, not a race track to learning what I think of as high school level skills. I mean even when I was in school not that long ago, lol, the expectation was that how to study was a skill to develop in high school in order to prepare for college. That’s what we worked on in the two years leading up to our enrollment in the IB diploma programme. Is expecting study skills of normal 12 year olds yet another example of pushing university methods into the elementary years?

Actually, what I probably need to think through are what skills and work habits would be equivalent to the sort of habits EFL expected the student to develop via her arithmetic lessons. Surely there is a way to work on my goals for this age via core subjects. But, I am once again back to trying to figure out what my goals for this age are.

Sorry for the muddled ramblings.

Thanks for the links to that English series, LostCove. It reminded me that I have a vintage British textbook for that age group that would probably be a good fit now as well.

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10 hours ago, ElizaG said:

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).

This is very much where I am at and I have far fewer justifications for this than you do.

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36 minutes ago, mms said:

But, I keep coming back to those old course catalogs that we passed around several years back and can’t help but reflect on the fact that 10 to 12 used to be the beginning of an education, not a race track to learning what I think of as high school level skills. I mean even when I was in school not that long ago, lol, the expectation was that how to study was a skill to develop in high school in order to prepare for college. That’s what we worked on in the two years leading up to our enrollment in the IB diploma programme. Is expecting study skills of normal 12 year olds yet another example of pushing university methods into the elementary years?

Yeah, I definitely hear this, and just a month or two ago had resolved to not worry about it for a while. But then my almost-12yo asked if he could study chemistry this year. So here are the options I've thought about: I could just check a bunch of chemistry books out of the library and let him do whatever he wants with them. I could set him up with some kind of formal curriculum, like McHenry's Elements or whatever. Or some third thing that would involve teaching him how to learn from a chemistry textbook or how to keep a simple lab notebook. Okay, actually I did the first one already, and he quickly got bored of the kiddie kitchen chemistry type books, but spent hours for several straight days carefully drawing his own giant periodic table of elements, which he has posted on the wall and refers to frequently. He's asking for more, he wants to do the demonstrations from the home chemistry labs book we found, and he wants more to read, so I have to figure out something to give him.

I guess I never learned good study skills myself, so I'm not sure when I should have. And I guess I'm thinking about them more broadly than how to study for a test, but more like your example of the gardening notebook - just how to approach any undertaking with a certain discipline and focus. I suppose a well-EFLed child could naturally just mature from the kind of notebooking she talks about to knowing how to study, but I'm not sure. If so, I guess this circles back to Eliza's question #1. Maybe his homemade periodic table is enough, is the equivalent of his notebook at this stage. But it just seems to me that it would be more respectful of the level at which he seems to want to engage with the material to teach him a little bit how to really study it and not just kind of dilettante-ishly consume chemistry-related information, as his mother tends to do with her interests because she never learned any better. I don't know, maybe this is even a question about "study skills" and more a question about how to help our children start to discern and pursue their particular interests as they get older?

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8 hours ago, LostCove said:

Yeah, I definitely hear this, and just a month or two ago had resolved to not worry about it for a while. But then my almost-12yo asked if he could study chemistry this year. So here are the options I've thought about: I could just check a bunch of chemistry books out of the library and let him do whatever he wants with them. I could set him up with some kind of formal curriculum, like McHenry's Elements or whatever. Or some third thing that would involve teaching him how to learn from a chemistry textbook or how to keep a simple lab notebook. Okay, actually I did the first one already, and he quickly got bored of the kiddie kitchen chemistry type books, but spent hours for several straight days carefully drawing his own giant periodic table of elements, which he has posted on the wall and refers to frequently. He's asking for more, he wants to do the demonstrations from the home chemistry labs book we found, and he wants more to read, so I have to figure out something to give him.

I guess I never learned good study skills myself, so I'm not sure when I should have. And I guess I'm thinking about them more broadly than how to study for a test, but more like your example of the gardening notebook - just how to approach any undertaking with a certain discipline and focus. I suppose a well-EFLed child could naturally just mature from the kind of notebooking she talks about to knowing how to study, but I'm not sure. If so, I guess this circles back to Eliza's question #1. Maybe his homemade periodic table is enough, is the equivalent of his notebook at this stage. But it just seems to me that it would be more respectful of the level at which he seems to want to engage with the material to teach him a little bit how to really study it and not just kind of dilettante-ishly consume chemistry-related information, as his mother tends to do with her interests because she never learned any better. I don't know, maybe this is even a question about "study skills" and more a question about how to help our children start to discern and pursue their particular interests as they get older?

Yes, these are all very good thoughts! I actually think that last part is key. That’s the whole point of the individual system, right, to actually deal with the child in front of us rather than a theoretical one?  
 

Dealing with those same questions and Eldest’s interest in getting more scientific about gardening caused me to purchase Guest Hollow’s Botany schedule for next year and I am slowly acquiring all the books for that. It is expensive and time consuming! And part of me does wonder, am I doing this wrong or is it just bad timing?  The books are certainly interesting, but I keep thinking in terms of value added beyond what she’s already doing by her various gardening experiments and self-directed reading for this age group.
 

Here are my thoughts specifically on chemistry. Chemistry builds on physics and I think it would be hard to delve deeply into the theory without a good foundation in physics and therefore math. Plus chemistry textbooks are really dry and while I have not seen Elements, if it is anything like Botany in 8 Lessons it still might have more theory than is needed at this age. But, again, I haven’t seen it. 
 

Looking back, I feel like I was working with one arm tied behind my back because I had several years of chemistry before I had a chance to take physics. I kept taking chemistry classes, however, because I loved being in the lab.  Chemistry is a really good subject for exploring via hands on methods and in my mind would make a good natural progression of expanding on observation lessons (and I seriously doubt your son hasn’t had any practice in observing even if you don’t make time to have actual EFL style lessons!) 

 There are actually some really good resources out there for a student to work through independently. I mean, it was not that unusual in mid-20th century for a kid your son’s age to have his own chemistry lab in a garage somewhere. Then the practical hands on knowledge could be solidified in high school with textbooks. The cheapest most dyi resource for this age group is Joy of Chemistry. A 12 year old could do everything completely on his own, even gatherings most of the materials and the chatty tone is accessible without being patronizing. Then there are the various microchem kits like the one from Thames and Cosmos (fairly decent if you get the $300 one and again totally independent) or QSL (meant for high school). Finally, there is the holy grail of childhood chemistry labs: https://archive.org/details/GoldenBookOfChemistryExperiments/page/n7/mode/2up

I have trouble seeing EFL disapproving of a child honing his observational skills and attention to detail as well as developing the habit of keeping clear, accurate and neat records by messing with chemicals in the family garage, especially when done on his own initiative. This is not actually university methods pushed down to lower levels but continuing an age old tradition of the study of natural philosophy.

And please don’t misunderstand, my musings about study skills were not even directed at your plans for your son! I had just had a similar conundrum with Eldest for next year because all of a sudden I was faced with the prospect of her taking high school classes at co-op and therefore needing high school level skills and hence the university methods thought process.

 

ElizaG, I’m sorry if I am once again putting practice before philosophy! I do look forward to reading and discussing The Child. 

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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.

 

Edited by ElizaG
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Ha, The Joy of Chemistry arrived in the mail today. Yes, mms, I think you exactly spoke to what I am trying to figure out. Some sort of book lessons are okay for this age, but we don't want to import university methods, and so how do I tell one from the other, lol. I was actually looking for more information about conducting recitations last week and had come across a few interesting things, including a book that had sample recitations in several subjects - maybe I will keep looking around in that direction. 

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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.)

Edited by ElizaG
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So what are these recitation resources that I’m missing out on? I know the Brothers of Christian Schools book has info on recitations as well as those old Jesuit Quarterlies, but I still don’t have a good sense of what a recitation is. I keep envisioning what we did in Soviet schools where we had to stand in front of the classroom and be orally quizzed by the teacher or solve problems on the board. How were the classical school recitations different?

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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.

Edited by ElizaG
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mms, this is the book I came across with sample recitations in it. I don't know that it's necessarily any better or more useful than the several other recitation-related tabs I have open in my browser right now (all from slightly different points in time, too, so I'm sure reflecting different pedagogical trends - the later ones seem to discuss "written recitations" as well as oral), but it happens to be the only one I've had time to skim through so far. I am also a sucker for anything addressed specifically to "country schools." Although I did notice, for what it's worth, that in one of the other links the author contrasted the recitation method with the German university method in which the student never recites, but just listens to lectures, studies on their own, and eventually is individually examined.

I also discovered that there was a whole genre of "question books" for teachers - here's one example. They seem to be kind of cheat sheets of recitation questions, although this particular one claims to be meant for review of previously recited material. 

This discussion has me thinking about the only teacher I can recall giving us any guidance for our study outside of class. The class period itself was in a pretty standard seminar-discussion type format, but at the very end of every class, she would remind us of the reading assignment for our next class and then would orally dictate maybe ten study questions. Only about half of the class would bother to write them down. 🤔

Edited by LostCove
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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.

Edited by ElizaG

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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. 

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Hello all. I’m new to posting, but a longtime lurker. I just wanted to post a great recitation of “Hiawatha’s Childhood” for those that would like to hear the flow and pronunciations of the piece. I memorized it and my children love listening when we are waiting, sitting, resting, etc. 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dgfPluV0shE

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On 5/11/2020 at 4:53 PM, ElizaG said:

1)  How to develop good habits in ourselves and the children if we’re starting late, or just haven’t been doing a great job up to now.  Especially if, due to various influences, we can’t achieve the “simplicity of surroundings” that’s supposed to be a sine qua non.

I have been reading Dupanloup and Susanna Wesley’s writings (who taught her 10 children at home!), which has me thinking a lot about habits in the context of educating my children.

For my habits:

I am trying to fit good words into new contexts, like singing the Psalms with my kids and memorizing - instead of reading out loud - interesting pieces of literature. 

I am trying to watch for the tiny beginnings of bad habits in my children to address them early when it is still easy. If I know they are practicing something that will have to be broken later in their lives, I try to fix it now.

I’m trying to eat no snacks between meals as a practice of more physical discipline

I‘ve dropped all composition exercises with my rising first grader and we just pick out interesting sentences in literature we are reading, which he copies into his notebook.

I am trying to not „teach“ all the time, and spend more effort listening to what my children find interesting in what we read or look at.

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