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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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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!

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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.

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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.

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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).  🤔

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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?

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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. 

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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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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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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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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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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.

 

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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.)

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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.

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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. 🤔

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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.

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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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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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For my children‘s habits (they are young):

I have spent probably 90% of my teaching efforts on vocabulary in the past year and it’s brought really neat results. I think a lot about words being the „constitution“ or stuff we are made of, even how we think, and children have this amazing ability to memorize enormous amounts of new words. So one of the habits my children developed is writing unknown or interesting words on Post-its and putting them on our „Word Walls“ in the house (one on a door, one in the restroom). We go over some definitions every day, which gives them practice speaking and developing precision in their speech. 

A second habit I am currently working on with them is chores. I would like to find more physical tasks that can be done by say, a 5 year-old, that doesn’t require so much oversight. I welcome ideas!

A final habit I am trying to establish now is a practice of working in dialectical (if that’s the right word for it?) media during the week; like if we’ve read a lot, then listen to instrumental music or go for a quiet walk after talking much.

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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.)

Edited by ElizaG
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Welcome, GracieJane! I think this is the column Eliza is referring to, and there are many follow ups (two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten) that give a fuller picture. Pat sounds like an unusually independent almost-six year old. If you have a laundry line, I've found that 5 year olds often enjoy helping hang laundry - we have one line hung low so it can be reached by the shorter children. My current 5yo also works with an older child on sweeping: the older child makes piles and the 5yo sweeps them into the dustpan and empties it in the trash. Personally, I have found it requires too much attention to detail for a 5yo to sweep on their own, but that could also be partly due to the layout of my home (a few very big rooms - I would imagine if we had a small porch to sweep that would be much easier for a 5yo). He also LOVES taking out the trash and recycling, feeds the hogs, helps fold square- and rectangle-shaped laundry, and works with the 7yo to unload the dishwasher. He also brings the dishes to the table for meals, but I need to spend some time working with him on actually setting the table as well.  

Re: summer schedules, we are doing a full school schedule through the summer because it is so hot here. We took a long, Easter-season spring break and are about to ramp back up just in time to need the air conditioning (sorry, John Senior). We'll take a longer fall break again in October. And actually, my husband has been doing some light lessons with the kids in the morning while he's been working from home - things that he can do without prep, like reading a page or two from the Primer with the 5yo, reading some LLPSI with the older two, music lessons (he's a former band teacher), and reading and discussing their catechism, but nothing that would require any prep time, which for him is stuff like math (the 11yo has continued to work on that independently) and EFL-style lessons. I have been grateful that he has been able to do this, because I didn't have the bandwidth for it at the time, but our days tend to be better when the kids don't have whole days of free time for weeks at a time. 

Edited by LostCove
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15 minutes ago, LostCove said:

Welcome, GracieJane! I think this is the column Eliza is referring to, and there are many follow ups (two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten) that give a fuller picture. Pat sounds like an unusually independent almost-six year old. If you have a laundry line, I've found that 5 year olds often enjoy helping hang laundry - we have one line hung low so it can be reached by the shorter children. My current 5yo also works with an older child on sweeping: the older child makes piles and the 5yo sweeps them into the dustpan and empties it in the trash. Personally, I have found it requires too much attention to detail for a 5yo to sweep on their own, but that could also be partly due to the layout of my home (a few very big rooms - I would imagine if we had a small porch to sweep that would be much easier for a 5yo). He also LOVES taking out the trash and recycling, feeds the hogs, helps fold square- and rectangle-shaped laundry, and works with the 7yo to unload the dishwasher. He also brings the dishes to the table for meals, but I need to spend some time working with him on actually setting the table as well.  

Re: summer schedules, we are doing a full school schedule through the summer because it is so hot here. We took a long, Easter-season spring break and are about to ramp back up just in time to need the air conditioning (sorry, John Senior). We'll take a longer fall break again in October. And actually, my husband has been doing some light lessons with the kids in the morning while he's been working from home - things that he can do without prep, like reading a page or two from the Primer with the 5yo, reading some LLPSI with the older two, music lessons (he's a former band teacher), and reading and discussing their catechism, but nothing that would require any prep time, which for him is stuff like math (the 11yo has continued to work on that independently) and EFL-style lessons. I have been grateful that he has been able to do this, because I didn't have the bandwidth for it at the time, but our days tend to be better when the kids don't have whole days of free time for weeks at a time. 

That’s amazing! We live in a suburb sans hogs or big rooms, unfortunately. I am certainly learning to appreciate how different chores look across the country, but I am determined to establish good work habits for the children (and me!). Thank you for the great ideas!

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14 hours ago, ElizaG said:

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.)

Thank you for the response! It is probably contra the spirit of EFL to ask what you do, but as I’m really starting out with the under-10 age: is there anything you wish you had known or done differently with young children?

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3 hours ago, mms said:

Can we talk about three year olds? I need some reminders and accountability. My major goal for the summer is to switch to OPOL with her before it is too late and I’ve got a good start with observation lessons and poetry but I feel like I’m forgetting something. She’s mostly been mothered by the older girls who have happily been spoiling her rotten and her big brother is her most constant companion. I’m am thrilled with how close the siblings are, but afraid she’s developed some pretty bad habits.  I think I may need to start off by tomato staking her, but how and what to do with her once staked, especially when I constantly feel pulled in so many different directions?

Do the other children speak your native language with each other? It seems like the younger ones are at a disadvantage because so much of their linguistic input comes from older siblings. If you can pull off a summer of OPOL, it will be like the mental equivalent of a daily chore practice. 🙂 

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

5) The place of modern technology in all this.

I love this topic of New Frontiers!

It seems like a common thread in EFL (chores, “immersion” in single authors and memorizing long pieces of poetry) is trying to cultivate in your child the ability of sustained effort in the face of growing challenges. Which is really, really hard. Doubly so when Longfellow competes with Pete the Cat or whatever. 

I never studied in school and rarely did more than the bare minimum, so I feel like I am trying to climb a huge hill made up of 30 years of lazy work habits to instill some patience and fortitude in my children. 🙂

Where does technology fit here? It makes things so much easier, in the sense that I can google pictures of pill bugs for my 4 year old (at least once a day, I don’t know why). And I like Anki, because it’s fantastic for oral recitation and review. But I know that if the internet has made it hard for me to read long books and memorize poetry then it will be even harder for the next generation who was born into the “encyclopedia in your pocket” world.

Edited by GracieJane
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On 5/15/2020 at 7:27 AM, ElizaG said:

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.  

McLuhan wrote about the sensory experience of television; in the absence of auditory/visual content, the mind “fills” empty space with information, like a hallucination. TV is all audio/visual information, so the mind is by contrast “hypnotized”. Everyone has witnessed a child watching a cartoon; you’re trying to talk to them, call their name and they “snap” out of it. 

I can’t imagine not watching movies. I don’t even know if there a solution to the screen dilemma other than “try not to do it so much”? I’m curious how other parents handle this without being “cranks” (well-put, ElizaG). 😉

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12 hours ago, GracieJane said:

as I’m really starting out with the under-10 age: is there anything you wish you had known or done differently with young children?

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. 

Edited by ElizaG
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