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Ella Frances Lynch thread #3: New Frontiers


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I’ve just looked through Educating the Child at Home, and EFL did leave open a lot of issues that she later addressed in Bookless Lessons.  For instance, in the earlier book:

She didn’t give an age guideline for learning to read, but left it to the parent’s judgment. 

She said that the five year old child should be being trained in “unquestioning obedience,” but didn’t say how to get there, or how far along he should be.  

She didn’t talk about scheduling the child’s day.  

This does seem much more compatible with Montessori.  It also just makes sense to a great extent, as there are usually many “right ways” to do things.  On the other hand, there are many “wrong ways” as well, and in trying to fill in the details of her broad outline, I’ve certainly discovered plenty of them. 🙄

EFL wrote Bookless Lessons to answer mothers’ most common questions.  I don’t suppose she gave the best possible answer for everything, but at this point I’m willing to acknowledge that her answers are probably mostly better than mine.  So maybe the right way for my family to approach this is, once again, to be methodical - i.e., to start by making changes in areas where her advice seems to have the most solid foundation, and where my methods (or lack thereof) have had the least success.

Her third book, Beginning the Child’s Education (1926), is even more closely focused on Q & A for mothers of preschoolers.  It’s still in copyright, but most of it was also published in her columns that have been linked to on these threads.  (The mother is “Mrs. Wilson,” and the child is “Esther.”)  The advice is similar to that in Bookless Lessons, but the tone is more conversational.  That sort of content probably would have been best for me to start with, even though I wouldn’t have been drawn to it back then.  Like the mother in the book, I was looking forward to academics, and tended to be vague about the rest of it.

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I finally had a chance to talk to DH about the compulsion question.  On hearing about Trumbull’s view that the child should never be made by repeated punishments to do anything against his will, DH (Catholic) immediately said, “Is this about God, and the idea that the believer should never be made to go against his convictions?”  He then gave a negative opinion of the effects of certain theological movements on American society, while acknowledging that Roger Williams had his good points, LOL.  And thus EFL’s view was ratified in our household.

It occurred to me recently that without “outlasting” and subsequent compliance, which contributes to the formation of habits, punishing the young child only serves as a negative stimulus.  The 19th century no-compulsion approach seems to put the focus of the interaction on the punishment itself, rather than on obedience and correct behavior, where it belongs.  I’d be very interested to learn more about the history of this - was it prevalent in certain regions?  Certain denominations?  But I suppose that will have to remain a mystery for now.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Apropos of nothing, I had been wondering why EFL compared slate pencils to chewing gum.  (I think this was in “Educating the Child at Home.”)  It turns out that circa 1900, slate pencils were made of chalk rather than slate.  People in some places are still using (and eating) them.  The things you learn on the Internet!

I think it makes sense to discuss chapters 6 and 7 together.  The first is on observation, and the second is on object lessons.  And I don’t seem to have much to say about either one.  Anyone else?

 

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Hello, friends! I survived a 5000-mile road trip...and so did all my family members! I did keep reading ahead a bit on the trip, but I hope you all don't mind two last obedience thoughts that coalesced in my mind during many hours staring at various dry Western landscapes. 

First of all, EFL uses the phrase "drill in obedience," which I've been mulling over for a long time, and I finally realized that I haven't really been thinking about obedience as a habit - I mean, I would have said that I was, but really I think I'm still actually operating on the idea of obedience as mainly getting a kid to do a specific thing that I want/need him to do right now. But forming a habit is about repeating an action many, many times, so if we want our children to form the habit of obeying us, they need to practice obeying us many, many times, not just to do what we say right now. So initially, we want to make it, as much as possible, very easy for them to obey us, which might mean asking them to do things just for the sake of having them obey us, only asking them to do things at times of the day when they are better able to comply, etc, etc. A name for this process that might be more congenial to modern readers would be "overlearning." I think this ties into what you said about punishment, Eliza - learning obedience happens when children successfully obey and punishment alone doesn't teach obedience. This seems stupidly obvious as I try to articulate it, but I'm suddenly seeing the many ways in which my actions do not actually reflect this understanding. 

I was also thinking about the apparent inconsistencies we've noticed between EFL, Montessori, Landry, and so on, and I am reluctantly coming to the conclusion that for EFL's system to work as described, you might just have to start pretty much from birth. We all want to know what is the EFL thing to do if you are coming late to EFL, but maybe the answer is the EFL thing (or at least the discipline parts of it) is only a thing if you start early, and these other alternatives that seem to share some but not all things with her actually are what you do if you missed the "sensitive period" for EFL. I was specifically thinking about this in relation to Don Bosco's "preventative" method - I've seen many Catholic parents over the years talk about how they model their parenting on this great saint, but if you think about it, he was dealing with children in an entirely different situation and it's not at all clear that the exact methods he used to win over and influence older, neglected, and undisciplined children are the best guide for parents raising their own children from birth. However, if parents find themselves with older, undisciplined children through some oversight, ahem, not that I would know anything about that, then Don Bosco's methods might be suited to that situation. Does this make sense? 

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LostCove, I’ve been thinking the same thing about the older ones, and have been trying to get my thoughts together enough to post about it.  I knew EFL said that people who were starting later would have to look elsewhere for answers, but maybe didn’t take this remark to its logical conclusions.  

The thing that clarified this the most, for me, was looking at the “Godly Tomatoes” site (which I haven’t visited for years), and finding that the author’s advice for remedial discipline in adolescence is very similar to St. John Bosco’s.  It’s basically “tomato staking,” lots of positive discipline and emphasis on the relationship, and high expectations.  There’s little talk of punishment, especially in cases where mutual respect isn’t established.  This was somewhat of a surprise, given that her advice for the little ones makes much heavier use of punishment. 

So this got me wondering:  did St. John Bosco give advice about raising toddlers and small children?  If he did, I can’t find any.  Like you, I’ve found several pages written by people  who assume that his preventive system is meant to apply equally well to children of all ages, but this seems questionable.  It was developed for boys aged 12-18 years (not 12-18 months!), and “reason and religion” are supposed to be major motivating factors.

All children develop at different rates, but I’m starting to think roughly in terms of four stages of discipline:

Infant/Toddler 

Ages 2/3-ish through 7 

Ages 7 through 12 

Ages 12 and up 

For all of these groups - and especially for the oldest ones - the situation is going to look different for “remedial” cases than for those who successfully applied EFL’s advice from the beginning.  

Ironically, I think I now have the *best* idea of how to handle the oldest group.  Which doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  How on earth do you “tomato stake” multiple children of a wide range of ages at the same time, while doing engaging and challenging activities with the older ones, without resorting to screens or workbooks for any of them?  Nobody seems to have an answer for that part.  

On top of that, I’ve just been reading some advice from St. John Chrysostom, who seems to assume that the family has a small army of tutors and nurses. 😄

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There was a discussion of curiosity several years ago, in a thread on David Hicks’ Norms and Nobility.  LostCove and I were there, among others. It starts about halfway down the page, or you can just search for the word “curiosity.”   If that’s not what you’re looking for, I’ll dig through the EFL threads when I have a chance. 

(Looking through that old thread was tiring!  I seem to have had a lot more energy for theoretical conversations back then. 😄)

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I love EFL's advice about observation and sense-training, though I've never implemented it all that well. Still, I think I've done some things differently and for the better than I would have otherwise. It was kind of funny to look back over that Norms and Nobility thread just now - obviously, I found EFL the Aristotelian educator I had been seeking, lol. A few passages that jumped out at me this time around (ok, this first one has stuck with me from my first time reading this):

Quote

Looking at things does not always signify seeing them. Many people go through life without a clear idea of the simplest subjects, unable to reason clearly because they lack the definite knowledge of particular thing in the concrete on which reasoning must be based. Knowledge is based on something that precedes knowledge and depends upon the clearness and completeness of our impressions. Since the mind obtains its information solely through the gateways of the senses, it is obvious that understanding and judgment will be in direct ratio to the perceptions received, just as the fairness of a court's judgment depends upon the faithful presentation of the evidence. On the other hand, no one is ignorant, even though unschooled, whose senses are trained to gather exact impressions from his surroundings. 

Quote

Circumstances formerly compelled men to observe, for their very lives, not to mention their success in life, depended on the keenness of their senses. Clocks now take the place of sundial and noonmark, weather bureau forecasts are relied upon instead of noting wind, clouds, and temperature, while brick walls and paving stones still further contract our horizon.

The connection between quantity of reading and triviality of interests on page 88 was concerning and cause for some self-examination. 😬

It is also interesting that in this chapter she also briefly discusses the "power of imagination," which she links to "the power to construct or to enjoy a work of art" and "ingenuity and dexterity in adapting thing of the natural world to our own uses." I feel like home educators today could use a good fleshing out of the relationships between the power of observation and the powers of imagination and creativity. It seems very important, but everything I seem to run into about imagination these days is all about fairy tales and picture books or at most about the importance of the imagination for faith in an invisible God. 

One thing I was wondering about as I read through this time is if there is some kind of inverse relationship between observation and abstraction. Specifically, I was thinking about how my most observant child has been noticeably slower to draw abstractions than my other children. I'm not sure what to make of this, if I should make anything of it, but I wonder if it is at all connected to EFL's observations about "late bloomers."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to the next two chapters (“Play” and “Work”).  We’ve had a lot of distractions recently, and my posts keep getting deleted before I’m finished writing them.

Have you all been “assigning” your little ones to play with specific things at certain times?  I’ve never done this, because it seemed extremely opposed to Montessori, and also weirdly unlike anything I’d experienced.  Now I’m wondering if it might be a key to developing both obedience and the work habit, without resorting to early academics (which probably wouldn’t even make much difference, since the lessons are so brief at this age).  It’s not as if I have a functioning Montessori set-up here anyway.

I’m also on the lookout for the equivalent of St. John Bosco for remediating work habits and the general inability / unwillingness to stick to a schedule.  Mostly for myself at this point, but also for the children, in turn.

Will put this out there now, before it gets eaten, and add more thoughts later.  🙂

 

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Sorry, I should have given a reference.  I’m thinking of pages 143-5, where EFL talks about giving play tasks to the two or three year old child (such as building a log cabin out of sticks), and making sure they’re completed.  From the context, I’m not sure if this is something she’s only recommending for children who can’t seem to amuse themselves, or if it’s supposed to be beneficial for all children at times.  

I have some vague memories of reading articles from very organized homeschool mothers who did this sort of thing with their toddlers and preschoolers.  It seemed odd and unnecessary to me at the time, as mine have generally been happy to play on their own.  But maybe there’s something I’m missing.

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On 7/28/2020 at 5:29 PM, ElizaG said:

Have you all been “assigning” your little ones to play with specific things at certain times?  I’ve never done this, because it seemed extremely opposed to Montessori, and also weirdly unlike anything I’d experienced.  Now I’m wondering if it might be a key to developing both obedience and the work habit, without resorting to early academics (which probably wouldn’t even make much difference, since the lessons are so brief at this age).  It’s not as if I have a functioning Montessori set-up here anyway.

Hm, I wouldn't say I've done a lot of this, but maybe a little more with the current 3yo. In the spring, I set up a bin of activities that she could only access while I was doing lessons with the bigger kids, but I let her pick which activity from maybe 5 or 6. When I'm working in the kitchen, I will often get out a pot or bowl with some water and some measuring cups, etc, to keep her busy, but I've never really thought of that as assigning specific play materials at specific times, though in a way, I guess it is. I wonder how this would develop the work habit beyond regular chores? I agree that it was unclear whether this was advice for a child who wasn't playing well on their own already (maybe more common among oldest children? I can see how it might have been good for my oldest, at least) or for all children in general.

I thought this was good advice that I should take more often:

"Do not let them play too long at a time, else they will get tired and certainly make trouble. At the first symptom of discord, separate the children, no matter whose the fault, for it is possible to be entirely too judicial in settling children's difficulties and after the trouble has started it is hard to decide who has been in the wrong. Besides, the children are laughing inside themselves at your particularities in this respect, knowing instinctively that it was a mere chance as to who was the guilty party at that moment. The natural consequence to quarreling is to be separated, and will impress the children as just and fair. No child is too young to learn that he must either control himself or suffer deprivations. If a child's idea of playing is always to take the part that he particularly likes, he should learn to 'take turns.' Let him learn to fit in, to adapt himself, to take his place among others, to give and take." (p. 146)

I am totally going to hand the kids some bags stuffed with rags this week and send them out to try and knock each other off a board. 

EFL speaks often in this chapter of supervising your kids' play but not too closely - this seems like a very tricky balance to strike in practice. I probably am a little too hands-off and wait for kids to come to me to complain about each other rather than keeping an eye on things and stepping in before it comes to that.

We've never had a dedicated playroom in this house, but after reading ELF's discussion this time through, it occurs to me that our current guest room/grown-ups' library would work well for this purpose. It used to be a carport before it was enclosed and added to the house, so there is actually a window over the kitchen sink that looks down into it. I've always been kind of annoyed by this odd feature of my kitchen, but maybe it would work perfectly for keeping a not-too-close eye on the children's play. Hm, I would have to convince DH, and maybe move around many, many books. 

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On 7/30/2020 at 6:58 PM, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

Hope y'all don't mind me bumping this. I started reading EFL for the first time today and am hoping to catch up. 🙂

I hope the reading is fruitful for you! Feel free to jump in and discuss whatever you'd like, of course! 

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Looking back over the last several years, I think I seriously underestimated the amount of involuntary work (both academic and practical) that my children would need to do, day in and day out, to develop a work habit instead of a play habit.  Some time before coming across EFL, I had picked up the idea that they would become accustomed to “doing hard things” through time spent in high-quality play and intelligent hobbies, and that this would carry over to other tasks.  As it turns out, though, my upper elementary child who very often memorizes and copies poems for fun, and has been choosing to read some of the most challenging literature we have, is also the most inclined to grumble and protest about chores.  

This all seems to fit with the theory about two different types of attention (called voluntary and involuntary, or natural and artificial), which I posted about a while back.

My little ones aged 2-3 have always enjoyed helping, so I don’t know if their chores were doing much to strengthen involuntary attention at that age.  Though maybe I just wasn’t a hard enough taskmaster.  😄  But I do wonder if they would have been so ready to follow instructions for playing.  Maybe I should just try this a few times with my youngest (who’s usually tagging along with the bigger ones), and see how it goes.  

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Okay, on to chapters 10 and 11, “Religious Education” and “Morals & Manners.”

On the American children of her day:  ”Their brains are sharpened to the doing of two things: making money and having a good time.”

This reminds me of something I was just reading about how board games have changed.  This is from the Wikipedia page on Milton Bradley (1836-1911):

“While the structure of play in ‘The Checkered Game of Life’ differed little from previous board games, Bradley's game embraced a radically different concept of success. Earlier games, such as the popular ‘Mansion of Happiness’ created in Puritan Massachusetts, focused entirely on promoting moral virtue. Bradley defined success in secular business terms, depicting life as a quest for accomplishment with personal virtues as a means to that end. This complemented America's burgeoning fascination with obtaining wealth, and with ‘the causal relationship between character and wealth,’ in the years following the Civil War.”

That game first appeared in 1860.  And from the page about Parker Brothers:

“Parker Brothers was founded by George S. Parker. Parker's philosophy deviated from the prevalent theme of board game design; he believed that games should be played for enjoyment and did not need to emphasize morals and values. He created his first game, called ‘Banking,’ in 1883 when he was 16.  ‘Banking’ is a game in which players borrow money from the bank and try to generate wealth by guessing how well they could do.”

So this pattern seems to go back a very long way.

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Her advice on religious education is, I think, fairly similar to what’s being done in a lot of church-going families today.  The advice on lying is quite different from what I’ve seen elsewhere, though.  

I’m not sure how we’re supposed to avoid making a big deal out of suspected lying, while also ensuring that they never feel that they’ve fooled us, or get any benefit from a lie.  Some of my children are clever at lying, and I’m not a mind-reader.  Any thoughts?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Most of this chapter makes sense to me, and seems quite doable (which isn’t to say that I’ve been following it consistently).   On p. 234, though, I feel as if EFL is promoting literalism over contextual understanding.  In our day, if someone were asked, “can you tell me promptly how much nine times seven is,” and he answered “yes,” I think this might be taken as a smart-aleck response or even as as a sign of autism.   And I can’t get my head around the idea of asking “where is your cap?” and rejecting the answer “I left it in the yard” as insufficiently precise.

Was this a common attitude among old-fashioned educators in EFL’s day, or before?  I guess I’m willing to accept that my misgivings might be a sign that I’ve picked up the intellectual equivalent of slouching (i.e. modern-day laziness and sloppiness).  For all I know, sitting properly at all times might be seen as a sign of some disorder today as well.  But I’m amazed at how much her advice here goes against everything I’ve read about social communication.

 

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Thinking about the cap example, I just realized that my children often bring in things that a sibling left in the yard.  What’s more, they don’t always tell anyone that they’ve done so.  So “I left it in the yard” might be the most accurate answer one of them can give.  😉

This is almost emblematic of my whole experience with EFL.  Her exhortations to precise and disciplined order are very often at odds with our family’s small but precious examples of spontaneous order.  I’m loath to sacrifice the latter, especially when I’ve had so little long-term success in implementing the former.

I’m very glad to have read the whole book in order, without skimming over the hard-to-grasp bits.  It’s allowing me to think more clearly about what changes might be both feasible and desirable in the near future.  Ultimately, though, I‘m still left with hardly any idea of how her parents (and others) managed to keep such carefully ordered homes and homeschools, even with many more children than we have.

I have an ominous (or maybe ironic) sense that “not spending hours and hours reading vintage educational writings found on the Internet” might be a necessary factor.   

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Ahhhhh, things have been busy here with all kinds of real life happening, but I am hoping to get back into this conversation some. 

Eliza, I agree with feeling that I vastly underestimated how much work and/or required play I could and should be asking from my oldest children when they were smaller, though at the time, it certainly seemed like they had way more chores than their peers. I think somewhere EFL says at least two hours a day and that was for a pretty young child as I recall. I think the middle kids are having more asked of them, but I need to make sure the littlests don't coast on the older, more competent kids' contributions. 

One other thought from the work chapter - I've mentioned before how I don't feel very confident in my assessments of what kids can and can't do, or exactly what standards to hold them to, so I was reading with a particular eye to this question this time and found two things that maybe kind of helped a little:

"Good work calls for thoroughness, but thoroughness is impossible without long drill in carefulness and should not be expected of young children. It is less important for a young child to do things than it is to keep trying, for the effort is what counts most. Be satisfied with the best they can do, keeping in mind their age, understanding, and practice."

Okay, so clearly this means yes, you can't expect a child to do a job perfectly right of the bat, but it would be more helpful if I understood exactly what EFL meant by distinguishing "thoroughness" from "carefulness," I guess. Then, towards the very end of the chapter, she says this, addressing the situation of a slightly older child who has not been asked to do a lot of work heretofore:

"Do not undertake several new things in the same week or month, but only how to do that one thing as well as he can, then make him do it regularly and promptly. After a short but adequate time, perhaps a week or month, add another task. Continue in this way, at the same time keeping up the previous daily requirements and getting more exacting with these."

Ah, so apparently I'm actually supposed to "keep up" with all the work I've assigned so that I can gradually and appropriately raise standards over time. Shoot, I was really hoping all the effort I put in just teaching them what to do in the beginning would be it, and then I could walk away and never worry about sweeping the dining room again. I am going to need to find some more nervous energy somewhere. 

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I’m not sure what it would mean to be an EFL mother.  If it’s a group with admission requirements based on specific achievements, then I’m not likely to be joining either.  But if it’s a set of principles and suggestions that we’re trying to apply, within the limitations of our circumstances, then perhaps I sort of am.  

It’s not even clear to me how closely EFL’s correspondents were following her advice, a century ago.  It would be very helpful to know more about this.  I enjoyed reading Florence’s columns, and wish she had written more about her experience.  But it’s also worth noting that Florence chose to put most of her children in parochial school at age 8 (right at EFL’s lower age limit), and my impression is that the majority of teacher-mothers stopped homeschooling around that age as well.   This would certainly have lowered the demands on their psychic energy.

BTW, I found obituaries for most of Florence’s  children, and for better or worse, they were like a poster family for the “greatest generation.”  The men mostly had military careers.  All of the women became nurses, and most of them served in the military as well.  The women tended to keep working as nurses after marriage, which I found interesting.  

Again, I wish we had more data points, to give an idea of what became of the thousands of other children whose mothers were influenced by EFL’s ideas.  Of course, it would also be interesting to know whether any of them chose to continue those methods with their own children.  But looking at the state of things in the decades since she wrote, even if her writings were very helpful for some individual families, they certainly didn’t spark the national rebirth of family life that she considered essential.  

Where does this leave us?  For me, at this point, rather than aiming for any particular EFL-ish outcome for my own children (which has proven hard for me to predict or control), I hope to do a little to continue the spirit of her work.  It seems to me that if she were alive today, she would be keenly interested in new research and insights that would help us adapt traditional methods of education to all of our more or less complicated personal, societal, and technological circumstances.

As we’ve discussed earlier, I‘ve been thinking especially about changing habits for myself and the older children (and let’s not forget the younger ones too; given my track record so far, they’ll probably need it 😄).  While cleaning up, I found some books I was reading a few years ago that made a lot of sense.  They’re based on perceptual control theory, a branch of cybernetics that seems to work remarkably well for explaining human behavior.  The book I’ve found most helpful is this one, written by a Catholic social worker and father of eight, who worked for many years helping schools and families.  While the underlying theory is complex, his advice is quite simple (and often obvious, when you think about it).  Since I started trying to apply it recently, it’s been working just as described.  I’m going to try to come up with a bit of a summary of these ideas, and how they fit with EFL’s thoughts about habits, learning, and self-control.  There are some interesting parallels.

 

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In other news, I re-bought MOTH (yes, I’ve arrived at that point!) and am looking at the sample schedules.  There are only a few that include middle or high school aged children, and they’re mostly from the author’s own family.   

The schedules do tend to have about two hours of chores per child, starting around age 6 or 7.  The mother is usually supposed to be doing other things during that time, though.  For instance, the children do “room chores” in the morning, while she takes a shower.  Also, from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, the 7 and 9 year olds do “helping jobs” while she starts dinner.  It’s not clear to me what’s happening there.  Is she just sending them off on small tasks?  Assigning longer tasks and checking on them periodically? 

Something else that stands out to me is that the author didn’t schedule any one-on-one time with her preschoolers and toddlers.  Both EFL and Ed Ford (author of the book I mentioned above) would consider this essential.  The little ones do have many individual playtimes with older siblings, which is lovely, but it’s not the same.  Maybe she works in little snippets of time with them?  

It’s weird, the sample worksheets in the middle of the book all include something like “1/2 hour of mom time per child,” but then when you look at the resulting schedules in the back, that time isn’t always there.  

Looking at another family’s schedule, from 10:30 to 11:00 am:

- Mom does English with 12 year old

- 6 and 7 year olds do spelling and writing

- 2 and 3 year olds do “assigned activity”

- 4 month old naps

Then from 11:00 to 11:30, Mom works with the 6 and 7 year olds, while the 2 and 3 year olds are on the computer together, apparently without supervision.  I’m finding that hard to imagine!  But maybe it just means they’re watching videos.

It seems to me that all of the above is kind of EFL-ish in some ways, but not in others.  The second family’s schedule also seems precarious, with the little ones expected to manage themselves for quite long periods.

If anyone knows of a sample schedule for a large family, with ~30 minutes of daily one-on-one time with each child, and more “assigned activities” and closer supervision than the (rather free-form) ones I posted a couple of years ago, please share it.  Even completely hypothetical ones would be welcome.  DH isn’t sure about this scheduling business, and doesn’t want me putting a lot of time and energy into planning something that might not be workable, so I could really use some sort of example.

 

 

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I’m not sure if it’s because they’re using textbooks.  She does have individual teaching time scheduled with each of the school-aged children.  She just seems okay with having the little ones be supervised almost entirely by their older siblings (who might be as young as 4 or 5, or as old as high school age).  I guess she’s putting a considerable amount of energy into teaching them how to do the supervising.  I’m not sure I’d be capable of this even if I wanted to.

They do seem to have different academic standards from most on these boards, though. Their 11th grade daughter had 3 hours of school scheduled a day, covering 4 subjects.  (A bit more if you include Bible, which they might be counting as a credit.)  She didn’t do much general housework, but spent a lot of time on devotions, helping younger siblings, and miscellaneous projects.  And their son, at 17, seemed to be going for a GED and spent 3 hours a day on mowing.  Which I suppose is quite compatible with EFL, in its way.  
🌱🌱🌱🚜

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I didn't quite know what to make of the literalness of the truth-telling section also. On the one hand, I see what she's getting at in terms of wanting to instill in our children precision and accuracy in their speech, but on the other hand, it seemed weird, lol. Maybe a better angle to look at it would be to think more carefully about how I am asking questions - if I mean, "what is 9x7?" don't ask the kid, "Can you tell me what 9x7 is?" I'm not sure, though, still thinking about that one. 

I have fewer kids in a smaller age range than you, Eliza, but, last year, I was marveling at how clean Celeste Cruz's house always looks and that led me to looking at her schedules (for example - notice that she does have a time slot on there for inspecting the kids' chores), and so I made something almost as pretty for us, and it was an immediate and definitive failure. Like I don't think we had even one day where we came close to following it.

But we can stick to a routine pretty well if I accept it's going to take a month or so to work into it. If I consistently find myself not getting to something, at this point, I take that as a sign that I'm trying to do too much or in the wrong order or doing things separately that we could be doing together. And any really large-scale changes I've (mostly) come to accept, like mms, are going to take a long period of very small changes.

This year, I watched a bunch of this lady's videos on home management - actually, I stopped about halfway through and this has reminded me that I want to go back and finish them. One thing I liked about them is that she has a few that explicitly address strategies for when mom is not operating at 100%. My sense with her, as it seems is also true for the MOTH lady and Celeste Cruz, is that most of the general daily household chores are done by the kids. Also, she seems to be just relentlessly positive, which I am...not. Yet. I am more cheerful than I used to be. As long as I'm not pregnant and am getting enough sleep. So, you know, maybe six months out of every two years. 😂

Quiet time is over and I have to go oversee a math lesson, but I do have something from the Religious Education chapter I want to talk about, and I'd like to hear more about the perceptual control theory stuff!

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So, I wanted to talk about the discussion of children's developmentally inappropriate questions in the chapter on Religious Education. Here is (part of) what EFL says: 

Quote

Try to answer reasonable questions in a simple and suitable manner, but do not try to explain to a child things that are beyond his understanding. It is a canon of modern pedagogics that everything a child takes it into his head to quiz you about must be explained to him fully and frankly and quite immediately; there are to be no more mysteries to childhood, but everything must be naked and open to the eye. Such doctrine, however, is as unnatural and dangerous as it is unpleasant and foolish. Every intelligent child asks questions every day about things utterly beyond a child's understanding, as well as about things that nobody can account for and things that are none of his rightful business to know.

I think I have taken this more or less to heart with my younger children, but I'm starting to see how it remains an issue even in the over 10 crowd. EFL gives the example of trying to explain electricity to a young child, which exactly fits my situation this year with my 12yo who requested to study chemistry. As we are beginning to get into it, I feel like I am constantly running into the kinds of problems EFL outlines:

Quote

This example [explaining electricity] will do for a type of children's questions that cannot be answered by definition or detailed discussion without still further obscuring the subject. Both subject and explanation are beyond a child's comprehension. You cannot resort to the common method of defining, which is to use terms more simple than the thing defined, as in the case of telling the child that a quadruped is a four-footed animal, for what is known of electricity must needs be expressed in terms understandable only to a fairly mature mind. Furthermore, language is still so new to the child that whatever familiar terms you do use bulk so large as to deflect his mind from the original subject and send it darting hither and yon. You cannot even compare it with things familiar to him, like comparing the tiger with the house-cat, because the only possible comparison is with things beyond the reach of his intellect and accessible to him only by intuition. It is a mystery and must remain so fro the present, no matter how faithfully we strive to render it plain.

I picked out a chemistry book written for a general audience for us to read together, and we are having all of these problems. The book steers clear of math and focuses on the "concepts" which are all conveyed via analogies that are often as far from this child's experience as the thing being analogized - and sometimes, they aren't even very good analogies. And honestly, I'm realizing how much of what I learned about chemistry in high school turns out to have no real content to it - I "know" that protons are positively charged and electrons negatively but do I really mean anything by it?

This kid had originally wanted to just work through all the demonstrations in a high school-level book of chemistry labs, and I vetoed that thinking that he wouldn't actually learn anything about chemistry if he just mixed a bunch of stuff together with no grounding in what it was supposed to be demonstrating. But in retrospect, I'm thinking that would have actually been a better path. At least then he would be making lots observations himself and drawing whatever conclusions are actually within his power to do so. 

Does anyone have any other thoughts about how to manage this issue as our children get older and reach ages at which they are allegedly able to learn some of these things that are so far outside of everyday experience? Personally, I feel like I have a sense of what to do for learning about people and places remote from our experience, how to connect the known up to the unknown there, but I am way more at sea with scientific topics. 

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You’ve probably read what Art Robinson has to say about this, but I’m going to link it here anyway.  Basically, no formal science until after introductory calculus, but hands-on science-related hobbies are encouraged.  The parent can also give the children real (not dumbed-down) books on subjects they’re especially interested in, so they can see how much there is to learn, but shouldn’t try to explain the contents. When the children are ready to learn, they will be able to understand the material on their own.

I don’t have much to offer from our family’s experience.  My eldest didn’t do science as a subject until high school, but spent a lot of free time on nature study and reading science books (both for adults and children).  This child didn’t move very quickly in math, though, and has just ended up doing math and science subjects in the conventional order.  These have mostly been done online or via outside classes, so I’m not doing much of the teaching or evaluation, but lack of real comprehension does seem to be an issue, even when grades are okay.  Sad to say, I’m definitely seeing these subjects more as hoop-jumping at this point.

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35 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

You’ve probably read what Art Robinson has to say about this, but I’m going to link it here anyway.  Basically, no formal science until after introductory calculus, but hands-on science-related hobbies are encouraged.  The parent can also give the children real (not dumbed-down) books on subjects they’re especially interested in, so they can see how much there is to learn, but shouldn’t try to explain the contents. When the children are ready to learn, they will be able to understand the material on their own.

I don’t have much to offer from our family’s experience.  My eldest didn’t do science as a subject until high school, but spent a lot of free time on nature study and reading science books (both for adults and children).  This child didn’t move very quickly in math, though, and has just ended up doing math and science subjects in the conventional order.  These have mostly been done online or via outside classes, so I’m not doing much of the teaching or evaluation, but lack of real comprehension does seem to be an issue, even when grades are okay.  Sad to say, I’m definitely seeing these subjects more as hoop-jumping at this point.

I have totally avoided posting in this thread bc you originally insisted that only EFL's works be discussed. But, you have jumped into Robinson, so here goes.  Robinson's family had to cope bc his wife died.  What he did worked for his family bc his family had very limited options.  But, the idea that kids should never study science formally until AFTER introductory calculus means that many students will never study science formally AT ALL or not until after college graduation.  While I don't think that kids need to study science formally prior to late middle school/high school, I think the calculus premise is 100% arbitary.  I can't fathom kids never having been exposed formally to chemistry, biology, physics, geology, astronomy.....whatever science you want to name, until or never bc of their not having taken cal.

The bolded is not a reflection of not having taken calculus.  Students can definitely master science concepts before cal.  That doesn't address your whys.  But it does address the why nots.

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1 hour ago, ElizaG said:

You’ve probably read what Art Robinson has to say about this, but I’m going to link it here anyway.  Basically, no formal science until after introductory calculus, but hands-on science-related hobbies are encouraged.  The parent can also give the children real (not dumbed-down) books on subjects they’re especially interested in, so they can see how much there is to learn, but shouldn’t try to explain the contents. When the children are ready to learn, they will be able to understand the material on their own.

I had read that Art Robinson thing, but it had been a while and was not at the top of my mind, so thank you for reminding me of it. This kid would still read and mess around with chemistry stuff on his own, so there really probably wasn't even a reason for me to make it a formal subject of study except for anxiety over hitting 7th grade, which has seemed a really big deal to me for some reason, lol.

39 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Students can definitely master science concepts before cal. 

8, do you have any thoughts or advice about my concerns about asking my students to study things that aren't really accessible to them yet or offering them materials that over-simplify scientific concepts? I feel like part of my problem might be that I don't understand a lot of scientific concepts well enough to notice when it's happening.

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Just to clarify, I linked to the Robinson article because his thinking on this issue seems to have a lot of overlap with EFL’s, and LostCove was looking for suggestions that would support EFL’s approach.  We‘ve compared and contrasted the two of them before on these threads, so I didn’t think to spell out the connection.  I’m sorry for not being more clear. 

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3 minutes ago, LostCove said:

I had read that Art Robinson thing, but it had been a while and was not at the top of my mind, so thank you for reminding me of it. This kid would still read and mess around with chemistry stuff on his own, so there really probably wasn't even a reason for me to make it a formal subject of study except for anxiety over hitting 7th grade, which has seemed a really big deal to me for some reason, lol.

8, do you have any thoughts or advice about my concerns about asking my students to study things that aren't really accessible to them yet or offering them materials that over-simplify scientific concepts? I feel like part of my problem might be that I don't understand a lot of scientific concepts well enough to notice when it's happening.

You shared he is 12.  What grade level and what math level?  From my personal experience with my kids, I would say that chemistry is best studied with a solid understanding of alg. (Even the most basic chemistry requires being able to do conversions and know how to use scientific notation).  A chemistry textbook is going to expect a student to be able to make conversions and to understand the math behind chemical reactions.  I have never had a student take chemistry at 12 (mainly bc I personally detest chemistry 😉 ) But, I have had 9th graders take honors chem equivalents with no exposure to prior chemistry and do just fine.

For a 12 yr old, a physical science text is probably going to be more accessible bc it is going to approach the topic more conceptually.  (Though conceptual texts don't always equate to easier understanding.  I started physics with my 9th grader this yr using Hewitt's Conceptual Physics text and she hated it bc she said by avoiding discussing the math he made things more convoluted and confusing.  I ordered an old Giancoli text and she likes it so much better because the concepts are explained mathematically and it is easier for her to understand.)

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9 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

What grade level and what math level? 

He's in 7th grade and about to start Algebra 1. I was hesitant about chemistry precisely because of having to work around the math, but he lobbied hard for it, and I didn't want to waste 12yo-boy intrinsic motivation, lol. Honestly, at this point, I think I am going to downgrade it to something he can pursue on his own if he wishes and shift gears for his formal requirements.

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9 minutes ago, LostCove said:

He's in 7th grade and about to start Algebra 1. I was hesitant about chemistry precisely because of having to work around the math, but he lobbied hard for it, and I didn't want to waste 12yo-boy intrinsic motivation, lol. Honestly, at this point, I think I am going to downgrade it to something he can pursue on his own if he wishes and shift gears for his formal requirements.

Have you looked the Basher books?  There is one on chemistry and one on the periodic table.  They are definitely accessible for a 12 yr old.  I have never used them, but many people post how much they like them.  I like Fabre's Wonderbook of Chemistry BUT I read it to my kids and edit it on the fly bc the translation is horrid and the terminology outdated.  (I cannot fathom having a kid read it themselves. Awful.)  I don't personally like comic books, but my kids like reading books like the Cartoon Guide to Chemistry.  (That is the sort of book I have on my shelves that they can just pull out and read if they want.)

FWIW, can you not combine his personal pursuits with his formal requirements? Can he not read a bunch of library books on chemistry topics for science?  

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I just remembered this passage, from Educating the Child at Home (pp. 155-6). 

—-
There was culture before there were books, and education should first aim at culture. Mere book knowledge is not culture, nor will it produce culture. Not only does home training prepare the child for useful life and good citizenship, but it gives it a working knowledge that opens the door of understanding to academic subjects. For instance, while the girl beats the eggs and you answer her questions she gets a practical chapter in organic chemistry. Washing dishes with her mother as a teacher she finds out the properties of water, the hardness and softness; the actions of acids and alkalis as combined in soap; the effect of heat and cold on certain bodies. Was there ever a better laboratory than the kitchen to teach a girl all she need know about chemistry? She learns about mould, mildew, rust, fermentation, freezing mixtures, temperatures, salt, and baking-soda. She learns of what materials different utensils are made, and how and why that material is used. Here are more of the things a child can learn from you or with your help in the kitchen: food-stuffs, their constituents and where they come from; the making and uses of glass, pottery, iron, steel, brass, nickel, silver. Using the garden hose teaches the pressure of water. The child learns as it helps at home about coal, metals, alloys, coins, clouds, rain, snow, ice, springs, brooks, lakes, wells, canals, sea-water, salt, winds, storms, familiar animals and plants. A child who learns these and related things and uses his eyes may later on really get something worth while from a high-school course in chemistry and physics, because he knows what the book and the instructor are talking about, while the student without this home training does no more than get through the examination. The making of useful, thinking, worthy citizens depends upon the early teaching of the humble facts and duties of every-day life. The one great question in a child's mind is “What ?” The importance of "How?" and "Why?" should also be firmly impressed. The habit of finding the answers to these three questions constitutes the training in observation.

—-

Of course, the challenge with this, as with so much of EFL, is that it tends to show up the gaps in our own education.  Still, it does make a lot of sense.  

We had talked in the past about TOPS being perhaps the closest commercial equivalent to this sort of learning.  My children so far haven’t taken to those books, though, or really to any books of experiments that don’t have a kit included.  They probably would if I made the materials more accessible, but toddler energy has precluded that so far.  Something to think about changing for this school year.

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Continuation of the above passage (pp. 156-8):

—-

Without a consistent preliminary training in observation, in the study of Nature, and the in- cidental learning of the facts met in every day's life, the beginners in laboratory or science classes find themselves embarrassed and confused before a striking array of information and detail, each part of which is simple enough in itself, but yet so interwoven with other information and related detail as to present a solid wall of complexity. The most necessary condition for the solution of a problem, the understanding of the data, is lacking. Let us take the study of botany as another example. Here is a class of high-school or college students, well advanced in their teens and passably intelligent. If they are given to study a chapter on the parts of a plant, to many of them nearly every technical term used in the assignment is new and strange. Nothing seems to have a bearing upon anything else. How do they study that lesson? By a muscular effort, repeating over and over each definition and description, word for word, and holding the collection of facts securely in their memories until the desired opportunity of committing what they have memorized to a test paper. Now consider the student who has learned to observe and trained himself to notice weeds and flowers. The assigned page is a delight to a student of this kind. The definitions are no longer meaningless, since in another style and phrasing they tell him what he has known and thought before. Does he passively set about committing to memory the words of the text? Never. He does more. He give their meaning, their relationships to other definitions; he puts interest and vitality into the work. He proves again and again that he who brings something to the book is the one who gets something out of it. He shows the maturity of mind that comes from long thinking. Because he has thought, he is able to face a complex assignment, whereas the beginner must deal with the single idea, which is the primitive basis. The boy or girl who has been taught to use eyes and ears is admirably fitted for scientific studies. Science is based on facts. Research does no more than classify or arrange in an orderly manner certain facts so that conclusions may be drawn. These conclusions are again and again tested by facts until research becomes science. The boy whose early life has been observant has the basis of facts and the skill in drawing conclusions needed by science. Such a boy meets with no difficulty in studying mathematics, astronomy, physics, or chemistry.

—-

 

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13 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

I just remembered this passage, from Educating the Child at Home (pp. 155-6). 

—-
There was culture before there were books, and education should first aim at culture. Mere book knowledge is not culture, nor will it produce culture. Not only does home training prepare the child for useful life and good citizenship, but it gives it a working knowledge that opens the door of understanding to academic subjects. For instance, while the girl beats the eggs and you answer her questions she gets a practical chapter in organic chemistry. Washing dishes with her mother as a teacher she finds out the properties of water, the hardness and softness; the actions of acids and alkalis as combined in soap; the effect of heat and cold on certain bodies. Was there ever a better laboratory than the kitchen to teach a girl all she need know about chemistry? She learns about mould, mildew, rust, fermentation, freezing mixtures, temperatures, salt, and baking-soda. She learns of what materials different utensils are made, and how and why that material is used. Here are more of the things a child can learn from you or with your help in the kitchen: food-stuffs, their constituents and where they come from; the making and uses of glass, pottery, iron, steel, brass, nickel, silver. Using the garden hose teaches the pressure of water. The child learns as it helps at home about coal, metals, alloys, coins, clouds, rain, snow, ice, springs, brooks, lakes, wells, canals, sea-water, salt, winds, storms, familiar animals and plants. A child who learns these and related things and uses his eyes may later on really get something worth while from a high-school course in chemistry and physics, because he knows what the book and the instructor are talking about, while the student without this home training does no more than get through the examination. The making of useful, thinking, worthy citizens depends upon the early teaching of the humble facts and duties of every-day life. The one great question in a child's mind is “What ?” The importance of "How?" and "Why?" should also be firmly impressed. The habit of finding the answers to these three questions constitutes the training in observation.

—-

Of course, the challenge with this, as with so much of EFL, is that it tends to show up the gaps in our own education.  Still, it does make a lot of sense.  

We had talked in the past about TOPS being perhaps the closest commercial equivalent to this sort of learning.  My children so far haven’t taken to those books, though, or really to any books of experiments that don’t have a kit included.  They probably would if I made the materials more accessible, but toddler energy has precluded that so far.  Something to think about changing for this school year.

 

10 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

Continuation of the above passage (pp. 156-8):

—-

Without a consistent preliminary training in observation, in the study of Nature, and the in- cidental learning of the facts met in every day's life, the beginners in laboratory or science classes find themselves embarrassed and confused before a striking array of information and detail, each part of which is simple enough in itself, but yet so interwoven with other information and related detail as to present a solid wall of complexity. The most necessary condition for the solution of a problem, the understanding of the data, is lacking. Let us take the study of botany as another example. Here is a class of high-school or college students, well advanced in their teens and passably intelligent. If they are given to study a chapter on the parts of a plant, to many of them nearly every technical term used in the assignment is new and strange. Nothing seems to have a bearing upon anything else. How do they study that lesson? By a muscular effort, repeating over and over each definition and description, word for word, and holding the collection of facts securely in their memories until the desired opportunity of committing what they have memorized to a test paper. Now consider the student who has learned to observe and trained himself to notice weeds and flowers. The assigned page is a delight to a student of this kind. The definitions are no longer meaningless, since in another style and phrasing they tell him what he has known and thought before. Does he passively set about committing to memory the words of the text? Never. He does more. He give their meaning, their relationships to other definitions; he puts interest and vitality into the work. He proves again and again that he who brings something to the book is the one who gets something out of it. He shows the maturity of mind that comes from long thinking. Because he has thought, he is able to face a complex assignment, whereas the beginner must deal with the single idea, which is the primitive basis. The boy or girl who has been taught to use eyes and ears is admirably fitted for scientific studies. Science is based on facts. Research does no more than classify or arrange in an orderly manner certain facts so that conclusions may be drawn. These conclusions are again and again tested by facts until research becomes science. The boy whose early life has been observant has the basis of facts and the skill in drawing conclusions needed by science. Such a boy meets with no difficulty in studying mathematics, astronomy, physics, or chemistry.

—-

 

The premise of learning through observation is similar to the approach Fabre takes in his books.  I love the approach for younger kids.  But, the world of science is not stagnant.  What was known in EFL lifetime is far removed from our understanding of sciences today.  Observation is an important skill, and absolutely needs to be encourage from toddlerhood.  (Goodness, I have argued for that approach on these forums for well over 15 yrs.) But, equally, so much of what defines very basic scientific knowledge today is far beyond simple "what we can see with the naked eye" observation. Chemistry, biology, physics in a classroom today spend a significant amt of time on what we can't just "see" walking around and looking at things. (The bolded is not a high school or college level knowlegde of botany in today's world.)  Children can, and do, successfully master concepts in high school that were not even understood by experts during that time.  Biology in high school is biochem. (Educating the Child at Home was published in 1914.  DNA wasn't even discovered until 1953.  Today it is common knowledge.)

At some pt, we have to know when to move our students from nature study/simple observable studies to engaging with bigger ideas of how/why.....the scientific knowledge we know today and needs to be taught bc they are concepts not simply explained through observation of our daily world.  It is knowledge we have gained and can in turn explain what we see.  Some kids reach that point younger than others.  And yes, some can engage with those big ideas quite young.  It is a gross generalization to assume that being exposed to the scientific processes means that somehow observational skills are suppressed or depressed.  That knowledge can actually enhance what they are observing and engender greater curiosity and awe for creation.

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2 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

(The bolded is not a high school or college level knowlegde of botany in today's world.) 


I don‘t think botany is a standard high school course today, but AP Biology still includes a chapter (or equivalent) on the names of the parts of a plant, which most students have to memorize.  You can see someone’s flash cards here, for instance.

And whatever we might think of the Robinson children’s education overall, it’s evident that they were successful in learning all the scientific concepts they needed for success in related fields, even with starting in high school.  So the idea that it’s necessary to start earlier, because “times are different now,” doesn’t seem valid to me.

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5 hours ago, ElizaG said:

I don‘t think botany is a standard high school course today, but AP Biology still includes a chapter (or equivalent) on the names of the parts of a plant, which most students have to memorize.  You can see someone’s flash cards here, for instance.

And whatever we might think of the Robinson children’s education overall, it’s evident that they were successful in learning all the scientific concepts they needed for success in related fields, even with starting in high school.  So the idea that it’s necessary to start earlier, because “times are different now,” doesn’t seem valid to me.

If you want to extrapolate the outcomes of a family with a father who is a scientist and who founded Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine in 1980 to children raised in the avg suburban home, go ahead.  They are your children and you get to educate them however you see fit.  But, his children were raised in an environment steeped with learning and knowledge. Genetics is also a substantial influencer in intelligence.  Those kids' parents are/were not your average parents.

 In no way does the avg student benefit from never having studied formal science before heading off to college.  Can it be done?  Yes, by extremely intelligent kids.  As I have shared on these forums year after year, all sciences both in high school and in college start at the very beginning, teaching all material needed to be mastered.  That is not in question. What is in question is whether or not the avg student can walk onto a college campus and take chemistry and physics for engineers, both for the first time, and both at the same time, their first semester in college and thrive.  Will they be able to master content thoroughly enough to use those courses and their concepts as the foundation for organic chemistry, physical chemistry, thermodynamics, electromagnetics wave theory, etc?  Having been married to a chemE major in college and having a chemE ds (and a physics ds and now an atmospheric science dd), I can attest that my dh and MY kids would have floundered if their first exposure to modern science had been in college.  (I don't know what the statistic is, but surely it is not news to anyone that the number of students who start off majoring in engineering/science fields is far removed from the number graduating with those degrees.)

In terms of your botany comment, I will leave you to your "knowledge" of science. (In case other posters are curious, phototropism https://kids.kiddle.co/Phototropism , photosynthesis https://kids.kiddle.co/Photosynthesis , and chemical properties of chlorophyll https://kids.kiddle.co/Chlorophyll, etc are all very standard science topics.)

Once more, I'll bow out of this thread since you want to control the discussion so tightly that only "approved" posters can question EFL's approach.  🙄

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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10 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Can he not read a bunch of library books on chemistry topics for science?  

Yes, definitely, but I will have to sift through the adult offerings because he's been through everything in the children's section.

8 hours ago, ElizaG said:

A child who learns these and related things and uses his eyes may later on really get something worth while from a high-school course in chemistry and physics, because he knows what the book and the instructor are talking about, while the student without this home training does no more than get through the examination.

Yes, this is what I want to avoid - I got great grades in all my high school and college science courses, but I don't have much personal culture to show for it, lol.

8 hours ago, ElizaG said:

Of course, the challenge with this, as with so much of EFL, is that it tends to show up the gaps in our own education.

Ha, yes. But thank you for reminding me of TOPS - I remember it being mentioned before but this is the first year I've really been in the market for formal science, so I hadn't really looked at it that closely. This kid is, for better or worse, pretty good at hunting up his own supplies, so that might be a good fit for us. 

 

31 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

if their first exposure to modern science had been in college. 

My kids have been exposed to modern science - they check out books from the library about various science topics, we watch documentaries, my eldest son steals his grandfather's Scientific American every month, etc, etc. Based on things Eliza has said, I believe the same is more or less true for her family. I'm not planning on shielding my kids from any field of knowledge, and I don't think Art Robinson or EFL suggested that either.

As I understand it, the question is more about how and when to effectively introduce formal science study. EFL's cautions do ring true to me and my own experience of science education even at two very elite schools, and I'd like to avoid those issues and provide something better for my children. I am genuinely interested in the nittty-gritty of your approach because you have successfully raised students who have excelled in scientific fields. How do you make sure your students are really assimilating the material and not just "getting through the examination" as EFL puts it? Or maybe your experience suggests EFL and Art Robinson's concerns are overblown? 

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1 hour ago, LostCove said:

As I understand it, the question is more about how and when to effectively introduce formal science study. EFL's cautions do ring true to me and my own experience of science education even at two very elite schools, and I'd like to avoid those issues and provide something better for my children. I am genuinely interested in the nittty-gritty of your approach because you have successfully raised students who have excelled in scientific fields. How do you make sure your students are really assimilating the material and not just "getting through the examination" as EFL puts it? Or maybe your experience suggests EFL and Art Robinson's concerns are overblown? 

I think the premise that having already taken calculus is some sort of threshold for formally studying science is absurd.  Most students do not take calculus in high school.  Even most advanced math track students don't take calculus until sr yr.  That means NO formal science studies prior to college.   Yes, I think that is completely overblown.  

7 minutes ago, mms said:

So I feel hesitant jumping into this great discussion because my children are still young and I still have plenty of messing up to do before I can really have an opinion.  But fools rush in and all...

I am sure I’ve mentioned it on here before, but my late father’s doctorate was on student’s understanding abstract physics concepts. He had several decades of teaching experience to compare Soviet vs American students in math and science education. What he found when writing his dissertation was that the American high school physics students whom he examined had little to no understanding of basic physics concepts such as force, even when they could define the term. And these were juniors and seniors from different backgrounds who presumably had been studying science for many years.
 

In daily life, I come across the same problem amongst public, private and home schoolers, public and private school teachers and definitely lately it has become quite clear that many people have this idea that they know science but really don’t know their a** from their elbow. So while I see your point, 8, about advances in science and the average student’s inability to jump straight into college level classes, I think most people would be better off if they could at least understand science at the level of EFL’s day and if they at least had the foundation in noticing and observing that she encouraged parents to give to their children. And maybe that is what LostCove is referring to as the gaps in her own education and I would confirm that as my own experience with a very “solid” formal science background. I found that I did not understand a lot of things in biology and physics until I started teaching those subjects and gained even more understanding when I began nature study and observation lessons with my own. I did not have this problem of understanding with chemistry, however, precisely because I had a fantastic old nun for a chemistry teacher who insisted that we learned in a very hands on way before she would talk about the subject. So we would start in the lab several times a week and only then would she discuss the theory: the opposite of how most school classes proceed and very much in line with EFL’s recommendation. (So, LostCove, my rec for your DS would be to let him go with all the demonstrations his heart desires.)
 

Another aspect of EFL’s approach to the sciences that I feel is very important is her focus on giving the child an understanding of his own limitations and of the limitless abilities of God and to see God’s gifts as benefits and not in a utilitarian manner. I am sure you can sympathize with both these goals, given the many examples of moderns speaking authoritatively on subjects that they have no basis of knowledge to discuss and the various evils that come about from having an inflated sense of one’s education and a utilitarian view of the world.

That said, I do agree that waiting till college level science before studying the subject formally is probably not the most prudent course of action for most 21st century students. I think it can be done: DH never took a conceptual physics course and got his start in physics that ultimately led to an aeronautics degree (part of the physics department at his alma mater) with an AP calc-based physics class. But, given the fact that many students don’t even end up taking calculus, I can see why that would not be a good approach either.

Also, I know a lot of people who had a fantastic foundation in observation and have great skills in knowledge of nature, husbandry and mechanical work, but that also does not translate to knowing one’s limits and having an attitude of humility to the things one does not know. For the past six months, it has been incredibly frustrating to speak with both educated and uneducated people about things science related.

At the end of the day, our family is taking a heavily observation and discussion based approach in the pre-high school years. For my non-science minded friends I have recommended Guest Hollow materials. I like TOPS, but DD11 found rocks boring after the first couple of cards so I am not as quick to recommend those. The co-op botany class that I am teaching will definitely be far more hands on and observation based than Ellen McHenty’s materials for example, but probably way more CM than EFL because the books we will be using will delve into some of the more abstract concepts in an accessible to children manner, but I am hoping it lays a good foundation for life science later on. And anyway, I still feel that EFL’s recommendations for reforming school education are far easier to implement than trying to guess what EFL would recommend for our circumstances - so for the ten and over crowd I am far more likely to use that article in Lady’s Home Journal as a blueprint.

I wonder if your father saw the same deficit in the Soviet physics students?   It would be interesting to know.  The issue may or may not be the content but the educational methodology.  American educational methodologies are HEAVY on reguritation and LOW on complex thinking.  American schools' long days and Mr. Gradgrind's approach  (plus staying inside watching TV or having every minute of your life scheduled) have pretty much destroyed the nurturing of observation in childhood.  

The main issue I see in this discussion is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  As homeschoolers we have the ability to spend their younger yrs nurturing curiosity and observational skills.  We have the ability to help them use formal science studies to really appreciate what is observable (take photosynthesis and phototropism, for example) and just how complex nature is.  That increases an awe in God's creation.  Simply bc the way American public schools implement teaching denies God and teaches everything in a utilitarian disconnected fashion does NOT negate the fact that those topics can be mastered and UNDERSTOOD much earlier than calculus.  

I know my children have mastered concepts much earlier than claims made by so-called experts.  I think it is the author of Life of Fred who states that algebra should never be studied before they have hair under their arms.  If I accepted such gross generalizations as some sort of de fide educational truth, I would have deprived my children of being educated according to their needs and abilities.  (I have my 3rd 10 yr old taking algebra this yr.  These kids are not geniuses.  They are simply kids who grasp math easily.)  

FWIW, conceptual course are not a pre-req for high school equivalents.  I think it was this thread where I posted that my 9th grader requested a math-based physics text bc she strongly disliked the way Hewitt hedges around the math in his conceptual text.   Granted it is alg-based, but still more than conceptual. Many kids never take a physics course prior to AP cal-physics. (My nephew is doing that this yr.)  But high school courses teach at a slower pace and do not have the same intensity of labs as a college course completed in a single semester.  And your dh still took physics prior to starting an engineering degree at his U.  (My chemE ds actually never took physics prior to college.  His choice bc he insisted on taking anatomy and physiology so he could tutor his then girlfriend/now wife.   But he took high school chemistry and DE at a U for 2 semesters of chemistry for engineers, so he wasn't having to start at the "ground" with all of his subjects and he made a C in physics.  He would never have been able to maintain his grades in the engineering dept if every course was as difficult for him as physics. )

FWIW, I know that understanding scientific principals have increased my kids faith.  Faith and reason are fellows on this journey. How the subjects are approached are under our control.  And, no, I do NOT believe that most parents can teach formal science through library books and documentaries and observation.  A scientist who knows their subject thoroughly? yes.  But, for the avg mom and dad teaching their kids at home, using a solid textbook to teach the equations, chemical reactions/processes is going to be necessary.  How they use the textbooks is within their control.  But to thwart the knowledge as beyond their ability or that it undermines observational skills or awe or that sciences are disconnected from creation......yep, that is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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Two more clarifications:

1)  While I don’t want to discuss Robinson any more than necessary, I think it’s important to point out that he didn’t recommend waiting until college either.  He found that students following his homeschooling approach were able to complete introductory calculus by age 14, or sometimes a bit later.  Again, we haven’t gone that route ourselves (so far, at least); I’m just taking this from his writings.  
 

2) EFL’s hypothetical chapter from a botany textbook would have been just that:  one part of a much longer book.   The same goes for my observation about the contents of AP Biology.  Neither she nor I were saying that “naming of parts” was all that was being taught about plants.  But it is foundational, and students who don’t already have a strong familiarity with it are going to be at a disadvantage, especially given the usual time pressures in high school and college courses.  As someone who finds it very difficult to memorize terms without either a concrete association, or a thorough understanding of the big picture, I can certainly relate to this point. 

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19 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

And, no, I do NOT believe that most parents can teach formal science through library books and documentaries and observation. 

I am very confused now. Didn't you suggest a 12yo could "read a bunch of library books on chemistry topics for science"?  

I also thought we had drawn a distinction between "exposure" (which no one in this thread, including EFL and Robinson, seems to be against) and formal science study. 

Maybe we have been meaning different things by "formal science study" throughout this discussion. In referring to library books, documentaries, etc, I was trying to explain that I'm not hiding knowledge from my children, but trying to figure out how to move from unplanned "exposure" (for which I have no particular goals) into formal science study (in which I would expect my student to demonstrate mastery of specific content) in a way that guarantees they are leaning something, not simply regurgitating undigested material. I think there are questions of both content and methodology to that. Because of my own lack of scientific knowledge, which happened DESPITE getting a supposedly excellent education that included high school bio, chem, physics, BC calc, and an AP science class that I can't even remember what it was!!!! and then, bio, physics, and calc again in college, I feel at a loss for how to proceed. 

Perhaps I'm overthinking this. I suppose EFL's answer to this question might simply be that a student who has been taught to observe will just automatically better digest their formal science studies, and the teacher's approach and the presentation of the material are less important. Still, unlike EFL's mother-teachers who got to wash their hands of all this by age 10, lol, I'm directly responsible for arranging my kids' education through high school in all probability, so I have to make some decisions about how to do things, and it seems like there are probably better or worse ways to go about it. 

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1 hour ago, LostCove said:

I am very confused now. Didn't you suggest a 12yo could "read a bunch of library books on chemistry topics for science"?  

I also thought we had drawn a distinction between "exposure" (which no one in this thread, including EFL and Robinson, seems to be against) and formal science study. 

Maybe we have been meaning different things by "formal science study" throughout this discussion. In referring to library books, documentaries, etc, I was trying to explain that I'm not hiding knowledge from my children, but trying to figure out how to move from unplanned "exposure" (for which I have no particular goals) into formal science study (in which I would expect my student to demonstrate mastery of specific content) in a way that guarantees they are leaning something, not simply regurgitating undigested material. I think there are questions of both content and methodology to that. Because of my own lack of scientific knowledge, which happened DESPITE getting a supposedly excellent education that included high school bio, chem, physics, BC calc, and an AP science class that I can't even remember what it was!!!! and then, bio, physics, and calc again in college, I feel at a loss for how to proceed. 

Perhaps I'm overthinking this. I suppose EFL's answer to this question might simply be that a student who has been taught to observe will just automatically better digest their formal science studies, and the teacher's approach and the presentation of the material are less important. Still, unlike EFL's mother-teachers who got to wash their hands of all this by age 10, lol, I'm directly responsible for arranging my kids' education through high school in all probability, so I have to make some decisions about how to do things, and it seems like there are probably better or worse ways to go about it. 

I said a 12 yr old could read books and watch documentaries. That type of approach which is what I do with my kids until high school level (as opposed to high school grade) science is about general exposure and nurturing interest and inquisitiveness. That is not what I am referring to as formal science. Understanding that plants use photosynthesis to create their own energy is exposure. Understanding the chemical reactions behind the process is what I see as formal high school level science.

Keep in mind I had a ds graduate from high school with almost having completed a minor in physics. He had completed high school level alg physics, chemistry, and AP chem all before having completed cal. He has stacks of notebooks from middle and  high school full of observations and thought experiments. One does not negate the other. It gives them more information for understanding what they observe.

There does need to be a shift in how science is studied. Late middle school/high school is a good time for most kids.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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When I mentioned the Robinson children, it was suggested that they were likely exceptionally gifted, and that their experiences might not apply to children in general.   But 8’s DS sounds exceptional as well.  

In any case, I’m thinking that EFL’s concern would probably have been less about “how to help a student, who has a great interest in and aptitude for some area of science, to pursue a career in that direction,” and more about “how to improve the value of science as a part of liberal studies.”  Over the past century, we don’t seem to have made much progress with the latter, though there have been plenty of anecdotal reports of problems.  Even in the 1910s, there were widespread concerns that the addition of science to the former classics-and-math curriculum hadn’t borne the expected fruits in terms of general culture, and that even advanced students were often unable to explain basic phenomena.  The proposed solutions sound familiar:  physics before chemistry, “conceptual” rather than math-heavy courses, the use of “discovery” methods, etc.  

I don’t have time to look into this further right now, but I hope your DS has a good experience with whatever you end up doing this year, LostCove.

(Editing to add a link to the very influential Herbert Spencer essay that was mentioned in the above article.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand why Victorians put so much stock in Spencer’s ideas.  By the end of his life, from what I’ve read, he had even given up on a lot of them himself.)

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2 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I said a 12 yr old could read books and watch documentaries. That type of approach which is what I do with my kids until high school level (as opposed to high school grade) science is about general exposure and nurturing interest and inquisitiveness. That is not what I am referring to as formal science.

Thanks for the clarification! I do think we were crossing wires a bit over the meaning of "formal" - I'm sure I could have defined what I meant better from the start. 🙂 My 12yo frequently exhausts me with his interest and inquisitiveness, lol, so I can probably stress a little less about this for now. 

16 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

I hope your DS has a good experience with whatever you end up doing this year, LostCove.

I'm sure he'll be fine - it's his mother I'm worried about. 😂

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2 hours ago, LostCove said:

Thanks for the clarification! I do think we were crossing wires a bit over the meaning of "formal" - I'm sure I could have defined what I meant better from the start. 🙂 My 12yo frequently exhausts me with his interest and inquisitiveness, lol, so I can probably stress a little less about this for now. 

I'm sure he'll be fine - it's his mother I'm worried about. 😂

Yes, we were talking past each other.  I was addressing the notion that any of the following meet the definition of formal science studies for the high school level student. These are methods that are appropriate for younger children, not teenagers. They need the background science that explains the process, not just the observation of the process

18 hours ago, ElizaG said:

.....For instance, while the girl beats the eggs and you answer her questions she gets a practical chapter in organic chemistry. Washing dishes with her mother as a teacher she finds out the properties of water, the hardness and softness; the actions of acids and alkalis as combined in soap; the effect of heat and cold on certain bodies. Was there ever a better laboratory than the kitchen to teach a girl all she need know about chemistry? She learns about mould, mildew, rust, fermentation, freezing mixtures, temperatures, salt, and baking-soda. She learns of what materials different utensils are made, and how and why that material is used. Here are more of the things a child can learn from you or with your help in the kitchen: food-stuffs, their constituents and where they come from; the making and uses of glass, pottery, iron, steel, brass, nickel, silver. Using the garden hose teaches the pressure of water. The child learns as it helps at home about coal, metals, alloys, coins, clouds, rain, snow, ice, springs, brooks, lakes, wells, canals, sea-water, salt, winds, storms, familiar animals and plants....

.And yes, no need to worry at 12.  12 is all about encouraging and nurturing those interests.  If he is interested in chemistry, finding resources that encourage more enthusiasm is the goal!  

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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2 hours ago, ElizaG said:

When I mentioned the Robinson children, it was suggested that they were likely exceptionally gifted, and that their experiences might not apply to children in general.   But 8’s DS sounds exceptional as well.  

In any case, I’m thinking that EFL’s concern would probably have been less about “how to help a student, who has a great interest in and aptitude for some area of science, to pursue a career in that direction,” and more about “how to improve the value of science as a part of liberal studies.”  Over the past century, we don’t seem to have made much progress with the latter, though there have been plenty of anecdotal reports of problems.  Even in the 1910s, there were widespread concerns that the addition of science to the former classics-and-math curriculum hadn’t borne the expected fruits in terms of general culture, and that even advanced students were often unable to explain basic phenomena.  The proposed solutions sound familiar:  physics before chemistry, “conceptual” rather than math-heavy courses, the use of “discovery” methods, etc.  

I don’t have time to look into this further right now, but I hope your DS has a good experience with whatever you end up doing this year, LostCove.

(Editing to add a link to the very influential Herbert Spencer essay that was mentioned in the above article.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand why Victorians put so much stock in Spencer’s ideas.  By the end of his life, from what I’ve read, he had even given up on a lot of them himself.)

I still completely disagree.  My sharing the information about my ds was not to compare him to the Robinson kids.  My point was that he completed 3 sciences (alg-based physics, chemistry, and AP chem) prior to completing cal.  His path became unusual bc he DE for physics at the local U in 11th (taking 2) and 12th (taking 3).  My ds who is a chemE didn't take cal until 12th.  He took bio, chem, anatomy and physiology, and 2 semesters of chemistry for engineers DE in 12th.  

My kids have very balanced educations.  They study literature, philosophy, theology, history, etc.  Science just does not get relegated to child level observation.  That is far removed from where we function in today's world.  My college sr dd who is majoring in Russian and French still took 4 yrs of science in high school.  She didn't enjoy physics or chemistry.  It doesn't mean she didn't understand them.  And even today's humanities majors are going to have to take 2 to 3 sciences to earn a BA.  Way easier if they have a solid background bc college level classes move at such a faster pace. She was glad to have at least mastered what she had for her classes.

But you seem committed to believing that most students do not benefit from standard high school material.   Your kids.  But, I would urge other readers to accept the defense of EFL and others with caution bc it could very well impact their children's future.

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3 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

These are methods that are appropriate for younger children, not teenagers.

Yes, EFL is talking about younger children here and the best way to prepare them for whatever their later studies might be. Her writing focuses on children under 10 and doesn't address how to educate teenagers in science or anything else, which is why I raised the question here. 

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3 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

But you seem committed to believing that most students do not benefit from standard high school material.   Your kids.  But, I would urge other readers to accept the defense of EFL and others with caution bc it could very well impact their children's future.

I don't agree at all with this characterization of Eliza's contributions to this conversation. My goal here was to better understand some of the practical things I could do to avoid shallow, rote science education as my children get older, and I think I've gotten what I can along those lines from this discussion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.

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29 minutes ago, LostCove said:

I don't agree at all with this characterization of Eliza's contributions to this conversation. My goal here was to better understand some of the practical things I could do to avoid shallow, rote science education as my children get older, and I think I've gotten what I can along those lines from this discussion. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience.

I feel like there were 2 different conversations going on.  Your post below makes complete sense and the quote that Eliza shared is appropriate for the 10 and under crowd.  However, when I read Eliza's quotes, I read them in reference to the conversation about older children (high school students) and Robinson's premise that students shouldn't formally study science prior to having completed  calculus.  (I am having a hard time understanding the quote in relation to children under 10 since the conversation started with a 12 yr old and the references to AP biology. I feel like she could have easily clarified that she was referring to elementary age children.)

3 hours ago, LostCove said:

Yes, EFL is talking about younger children here and the best way to prepare them for whatever their later studies might be. Her writing focuses on children under 10 and doesn't address how to educate teenagers in science or anything else, which is why I raised the question here. 

 

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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Educating the Child at Home does have some advice that goes up to age 14, which is one of the reasons I originally preferred it over Bookless Lessons.  It gets much more vague as the children get older, though. The advice is more or less to continue as you started, and then transition into preparing for the requirements of college or work.

I think the lessons described in the first part of the quotation could involve children of a fairly wide range of ages, depending on the complexity of the chores they’re doing.  “All she need know about chemistry” refers to practical knowledge for children who won’t be attending high school, who were the great majority in those days.  This is evident from the bit a few sentences later, where EFL says that these lessons are also an ideal background for a future high school course.  Of course, this part would apply to nearly every child today, since they all now have the privilege and obligation of secondary education.

The second part of the quotation talks more about high school and college students, as she describes the benefits of this sort of preparation for their formal “book lessons.”  My comments about AP Biology were in response to the suggestion that the example of curriculum she gave in this section was outdated. 

Sorry to keep posting on this topic, LostCove.  I know you’ve had enough.  And I didn’t even remember to mention the good old Fr. Jaki essay about science education (which even mentions Herbert Spencer).  Maybe I can sneak it in to the discussion by trying to tie it in to perceptual control theory?  😄

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Contrary to Berthelot and similar scientist worshipers of science, science does not embrace the basis of intellectual endeavor which is concept


formation, nor many areas of that endeavor, that cannot be measured.
Those who take the opposite view attribute to science wisdom which it cannot have in terms of its method in which the touch of proof and truth is
measurement, a quantitative operation. To attribute anything more than
that to science is the height of unwisdom

So, is the perspective that science as a required core subject in high school, taught using traditional science textbooks is science worship,  detracting from a liberal education and are relegated to hoop jumping subjects?

I cannot relate to the essay at all in terms of someone who is homeschooling and controls how subjects are taught. The flaws of societal ideology do not have to enter into our home teaching. On the one hand, you are discussing how to implement EFL's ideas to nurture children's formation through their homelife and educations, yet the same appreciation for spiritual and intellectual development cannot be applied to scientific concepts that reveal the awesomeness of creation? 

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