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Ella Frances Lynch thread #3: New Frontiers


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10 minutes ago, mms said:

8, I am posting on the fly, but I think for me personally it is at least as much a matter of time and energy as being influenced by the ideas that various scientists (like Chargaff and Shroedinger) have expressed about science education that mirror a lot of what Fr Jaki says in his essay.
 

While it is true that we are not limited by school methods, not every mother will have the level of energy you have and your children seem to have. In our homeschool, I do not foresee our high schoolers doing eight to ten hours of work each day, unless they specifically ask for such a heavy academic load with a particular goal in mind. I seriously doubt that we will forego science in high school or wait till after calculus, but I do not believe it will have the centrality I thought it would have when we started because the classical languages are at the center and those take up a lot of time and brain space to accomplish at the level DH and I would like.

My time online is growing less and less and I wish I could go into more depth and actually address what Fr Jaki says as well as post some ideas from Erwin Chargaff that really resonated with me, but I have a birthday cake to bake. ElizaG, I still have some scheduling thoughts that will probably come too late to be useful by the time I get around to posting them...

Those who can complete an academic-oriented high school education in under 7-8 hrs a day amaze me and I suspect they are in the minority. (There is actually a thread on the high school forum discussing this right now and 7-8 seems by far the norm for students taking an avg (not some extreme) academic load.)  10 is incredibly atypical, but it is who he is, not anything to do with how I teach or require.  (He and his wife have barely left their apt since quarantine began and he has completed an absurd number of Coursera courses as well as digging deeper into philosophy (he has always loved philosophy and his wife graduated with a degree in philosophy and physics (as in philosophy was her first major and physics her second.) He loves learning and is constantly studying/mastering subjects outside of anything "required for school.")  Even my very avg students take 7-8 hrs per day.  It just takes that long to accomplish everything to any degree of mastery.  It isn't about my having a certain level of energy.  It is about taking the role as primary educator very seriously and ensuring that my kids are receiving the education that I have assumed by taking on the role as their educator and guidance counselor.  It takes longer days as teens compared to younger children.

I do disagree with the suggestion that in high school that any single subject has or should have centrality.   A focus as in taking more classes?  Sure, bc God has blessed us all with unique gifts that we should embrace and have areas that are of more interest than others.  But, central as in pushing out other subjects, no, bc it is through exposure to ideas and exploring subjects that they actually find the subjects that interest them and develop those gifts with which they have been blessed. 

Honestly, I cannot fathom making the bolded statement you have made about classical languages being center bc I cannot fathom making that decision for my approaching young adulthood children.  I have minimal threshold goals that I expect all of them to accomplish whether they personally want to or enjoy studying, but no, I would never make the choice for them as to what should or will be their "center" educationally other than affirming that God and a living a holy life always should be primary. For one child science might be their joy; for another science might be their dread.  Equally, languages might be one's joy and another's dread.  But, there is room for them to actively pursue their joys while mastering their dread without diminishing the whole. 

What we study isn't about my perceived preferences or ideology. I have basic core subject requirements bc it is through those subjects that they discover not only ideas but learn more about themselves and what they see their vocation in life being.  As they progress through high school, my children have direct influence/control over major decisions of what they decide to pursue to an advanced level beyond my basic core requirements while I influence what they study on their "weaker" side.  (For sure with my kids what they have opted to pursue to an advanced level certainly hasn't been about my personal areas of strength or interest since every single one of them has pursued areas I actively dislike or am weak in.)  My current 9th grader, for example, always insisted when she was younger that she did not want to attend college. She was adamant about it.  Last yr as an 8th grader she was studying ecology and suddenly developed a very strong interest in cave ecosystems.  She also loves rock climbing.  This has developed into a strong passion to pursue speleology.  Her attitude is driving her work through content that frustrates her bc she has formed her own long-term goals.  That internal drive will carry her farther than any external "central" I could enforce.

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The thing is, if college admissions still required proficiency in Latin and Greek (as some people believe they should), then children who wanted to attend college would have to “choose” to study those subjects in depth.  Since they don’t, this requirement has to be imposed by the parents or school administrator, or it’s not going to exist at all.  Either way, it’s a matter of externally imposed requirements.  Most bright teenagers, left to their own devices, would choose science courses over classics courses; this has been proven by experience over the last 150+ years.

This is also why classical education can never be restored from the bottom up.  Without the colleges reinstating these prerequisites (or, more likely, new programs being developed with them in mind), the great majority of students and parents will not pursue this path through high school, when other interests and requirements tend to take over.  I had heard this said in the past, but was not sure about it.  Now that I have high schoolers myself, it’s very apparent.  We’re only on track to do a fraction of what I‘d hoped for with the older ones, and I’m much more highly motivated than most (and my children have been quite interested as well, especially with Greek).  It’s harder to keep going without that “push” from the outside society that says “yes, you can and should do this”:  college admissions, state requirements, the example of other homeschool families, etc.  

mms, I don’t mean to dishearten you!  Some families have managed to achieve this, and I think yours does stand a good chance.  (Otherwise, you could always move to Italy, or some other country where Latin and Greek are still required for university humanities programs at least.  😉)

Edited by ElizaG
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2 hours ago, ElizaG said:

The thing is, if college admissions still required proficiency in Latin and Greek (as some people believe they should), then children who wanted to attend college would have to “choose” to study those subjects in depth.  Since they don’t, this requirement has to be imposed by the parents or school administrator, or it’s not going to exist at all.  Either way, it’s a matter of externally imposed requirements.  Most bright teenagers, left to their own devices, would choose science courses over classics courses; this has been proven by experience over the last 150+ years.

This is also why classical education can never be restored from the bottom up.  Without the colleges reinstating these prerequisites (or, more likely, new programs being developed with them in mind), the great majority of students and parents will not pursue this path through high school, when other interests and requirements tend to take over.  I had heard this said in the past, but was not sure about it.  Now that I have high schoolers myself, it’s very apparent.  We’re only on track to do a fraction of what I‘d hoped for with the older ones, and I’m much more highly motivated than most (and my children have been quite interested as well, especially with Greek).  It’s harder to keep going without that “push” from the outside society that says “yes, you can and should do this”:  college admissions, state requirements, the example of other homeschool families, etc.  

mms, I don’t mean to dishearten you!  Some families have managed to achieve this, and I think yours does stand a good chance.  (Otherwise, you could always move to Italy, or some other country where Latin and Greek are still required for university humanities programs at least.  😉)

In terms of the bolded, Latin and Greek can easily be defined as part of the minimal core requirements if that is what a family opts to choose.  (I personally don't think that there is any reason for colleges to go back to that requirement.  Historically there was a cultural reason for it. It is the language that works studied were written in.  Today, very few students are going to ever read the classics in full in Latin or Greek.)

There is a distinction between central and part of a general core.  My oldest 3 did not take Latin; they simply all took Spanish.  But, my next 3 all took at least 2 languages for a minimum of at least 3 yrs and Latin was one of the languages.  (I would have required 2 of my 9th grader, but she is dyslexic without the giftedness of her older dyslexic brothers.  Learning for her is a constant struggle.)  My youngest is starting Russian this yr and will have her add Latin in either 8th or 9th.   Studying 2 languages did not inhibit their abilities to study multiple other subjects.

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This is all getting farther off topic, especially as EFL didn’t advocate for any particular type of secondary curriculum.  But human experience, in the late 19th and early 20th century, found that it wasn’t possible for most academically inclined students to combine the traditional level of proficiency in classical subjects with the full slate of modern subjects.  The classics had made up the bulk of secondary studies, accounting for the equivalent of multiple credits per year.  Modern high school Latin courses, such as Henle, have had their contents drastically reduced from those previous expectations.   

In addition, many parents who value classics would nonetheless like their children to study one or more modern languages.  It was common for 19th century classical schools to teach three or four languages, both ancient and modern, as part of their standard curriculum.  I’m guessing this might be what mms has in mind.  

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49 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

This is all getting farther off topic, especially as EFL didn’t advocate for any particular type of secondary curriculum.  But human experience, in the late 19th and early 20th century, found that it wasn’t possible for most academically inclined students to combine the traditional level of proficiency in classical subjects with the full slate of modern subjects.  The classics had made up the bulk of secondary studies, accounting for the equivalent of multiple credits per year.  Modern high school Latin courses, such as Henle, have had their contents drastically reduced from those previous expectations.   

In addition, many parents who value classics would nonetheless like their children to study one or more modern languages.  It was common for 19th century classical schools to teach three or four languages, both ancient and modern, as part of their standard curriculum.  I’m guessing this might be what mms has in mind.  

So, basically, if you, Lost Cove, or mms encounter a difficulty in how to implement EFL's philsophy in your homes, you are able to point it out and discuss how it doesn't work in your families or how you try to make it work within your families.  But, if someone who has raised multiple children to adulthood sees ways to incorporate both languages and modern sciences successfully in the homeschool scenario, it is off topic and not possible to achieve according 19th and early 20th century standards. (FWIW, I have had a child who managed to study Russian, French, and Latin to high levels of proficiency, as well as 4  high school maths, 4 sciences, 4  literatures, 4 histories, and philosophy and theology, so a modern language in addition to Latin and Greek is possible. ) I'm guessing insights in how it IS possible to achieve a broad range of objectives in the homeschooling environment isn't as simple as shutting down their plausibility by irrelevance..

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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No, it’s not nearly that nefarious.  It’s just that lengthy discussions of the time taken up by intensive classical studies, the balancing of languages and science in high school, etc., are getting off topic (since they weren’t a focus of EFL’s writings), and would probably be better addressed elsewhere. 

EFL’s advice is mostly for parents of younger children, as LostCove said above.  She was looking for suggestions for a compatible approach to science for the middle school years.  I posted a couple of articles from people whose views overlap with EFL’s, and who have written at greater length about science education, in case there was anything of interest there.  Since we often share links to various books and articles in these threads, I thought it would be understood that these ones weren’t intended to represent an “EFL philosophy” of everything, nor was I exhorting everyone to commit to following them.  (Nor was it all on topic.  Fr. Jaki’s talk, for example, only had a few things that I thought were directly relevant to the question, such as his advice to teach the history of science as a way to support humility.  Thinking about it now, though, maybe the sort of history he was referring to wouldn’t be accessible to a 12 year old.  Not sure.)  

But somehow, it all seems to have become jumbled together:  EFL, Robinson, Fr. Jaki, the 19th century classical curriculum, what each of us is trying to do at home, etc.  Again, while there is some overlap, these are all different things.  As a result, I don’t think the current topic (whatever it is) is benefiting anyone at this point.

 

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Correction:  EFL did advocate for Fr. McGucken’s six-year “Vittorino School” when the plan was published in the 1930s.  This was meant to be a school for the most capable students.  It was relatively light on classics by Jesuit standards, as Latin was required every year, but Greek was optional.  That was for the boys’ school; there’s a good chance that the girls’ school, whose plan was never written, would have had less.  I don’t remember what it was supposed to offer for science and modern languages.   

The Vittorino School wasn’t intended as a model for homeschooling, as it relied on integrated instruction from expert teachers, as well as a lot of sports.  But as a brick and mortar school, it had apparently been tried out with success.
 

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mms, ITA about everyone having different resources.   

In addition to generally low energy, one challenge I have is that I can’t keep track of many things at once.  Driving a car has always been difficult and stressful.  Mystery stories or dramas with lots of characters are baffling.  And while writing this, I suddenly remembered that in upper high school and college, I found a normal course load overwhelming; it seemed as if I just didn’t have room in my mind for all the subjects.  One summer, I stayed on campus and took a couple of courses.  Despite the accelerated schedule, I found that I could keep up with all of the work for a change, could learn much more easily, and enjoyed the subjects much more.  I wished then that I’d been able to go to one of those schools where you only take one course at a time.  

To make this trickier, though, I also seek out variety.  In college, I wished they had a predetermined “super rigorous” liberal studies program that we could choose to follow, because I had a very difficult time settling on a major.  Nearly all of them looked interesting!  (My mom, who had been reading Allan Bloom’s bestseller, suggested doing a Great Books program, but I was skeptical of the idea even then. 😄  It was only a year long anyway.)

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is happening with homeschooling as well.  Curricula with many different subjects, and integrated thematic curricula with multiple books and other materials, are very stressful and off-putting for me, even though I often find the latter type very appealing in the beginning.  What has really worked for us is to have just a few core subjects (done either via standard materials, or ad-hoc lessons based on a text I’ve chosen), and lots of resources put out for free choice.  

Last year, my middle graders seemed to need more, so I started giving them materials for additional subjects, which went okay.  But in hindsight, I think they just needed more to do in general.   Right now, we’re supposed to be ramping up to our full number of subjects for this year, and I’ve been dreading it, because X children * Y subjects just seemed like way too much.  Thanks to your post and my subsequent reflection, I’m now thinking it would be fine to go back to the basics, and solve the “keeping children busy” problem separately.

The desire for simplicity is one of the things that drew me to EFL, of course, but the desire for variety runs counter to her philosophy and also tends to get me in a lot of general trouble, especially in the clutter and time-wasting departments.  If I can resolve this, the only hurdles will be my frequent desire to be left alone — which I’m starting to think is more a matter of habit than temperament —and the practical demands of scheduling.  (I hope you will post on that!)

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BTW, apropos of the chapter on “Work” in Bookless Lessons:  

I recently shared with my very hard-working mother that, even though she taught me how to do various types of chores (which I greatly appreciate), I never learned to do them day in and day out, and find it very difficult and unpleasant, like it’s a real ordeal each time.   Her response?

“I think everyone feels that way.  I mean, it’s awful, isn’t it.  It’s why I’ve always listened to the radio, or books on tape.  And now there’s YouTube.”

This has me 😂.  All this fretting about my moral weakness and failure to live up to her example, and it turns out that the key component is audiobooks and podcasts!

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33 minutes ago, square_25 said:

Oh, the stormy seas of people who have a different perspective... yes, it’s terrible.

I haven’t read enough EFL to contribute to this thread, but the idea that you have to avoid the main board because there’s a greater diversity of opinions on the board is rather unappealing. 

My hunch is that it is not the presence of different perspectives that concerns mms, but the absence of good faith. 

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54 minutes ago, square_25 said:

I really don’t want to derail this thread. Feel free to start a new thread discussing what a good faith discussion looks like, though 🙂 .

This thread is deeply Catholic in its orientation.  I don't know how it can be seen through any other lens than Catholicism, and even then, it is hard to relate to it as a devout Catholic.

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@mms  I read your response last night before I went to bed and have been debating whether to reply or not.  I fully appreciate your conviction and the premise behind your objectives.  I will share these thoughts for you to consider or dismiss according to whatever you desire.

First, consider the difference in your relationship with your 11 yr old and her 5 yr old self.  Those 6 yrs reflect a massive change in relationship between parent and child.  The changes between 11 and 16 are equally dramatic.  Between 16 and 18 equally dramatic again.  Adult children look backward on their childhoods and have very strong opinions about how they view decisions their parents made that impacted their lives.  Their perceptions of events are not through their parents' eyes, but through their real world experiences as children, their transition to adulthood, and how their childhood impacts their adult lives.  

This leads into my 2nd group of thoughts.  I believe God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnibenevolent.  We were born into the time we were according to His will.  While we are not meant to be of this world, we definitely are meant to live in it. He placed us here in our present to live according to His will within the context of the world we are in. While Latin and Greek have value, they were also simply the vernacular languages being spoken at the time. The question is does their historical cultural value exceed the world that God has placed us to live in?  Does preserving that Western culture of spoken fluency outweigh the real world needs our children will have in living fully in this time and place?  Are there other ways to achieve the cultural objectives without inhibiting the real-time needs our children will face in reaching their personal adulthood objectives?

I think the idea that being fully versed in the liberal arts will mentally equip a student to master today's sciences without issue is purely supposition and not based on fact.  The burden will be on the student to prove the hypothesis and if it fails, then that failure remains with the student. 

Anyway, I will leave the thread so the 3 of you can enjoy your conversation.

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1 hour ago, mms said:

I especially appreciate that it is experienced homeschooling moms posting and not men who get a bright idea and market it to unsuspecting women!

Amen to this!

Are the specifics of the Vittorino Plan in The Catholic Way in Education? Are they worth me spending $30 on a copy? In poking around for that, I found a bunch of Jesuit theses from the 30s on the Ratio and Jesuit pedagogy that look pretty interesting...

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18 hours ago, ElizaG said:

If I can resolve this, the only hurdles will be my frequent desire to be left alone — which I’m starting to think is more a matter of habit than temperament

I share this habit or temperament, and the only thing that has ever made it better is when I go ahead and block out a chunk of every day when I MUST BE LEFT ALONE. Not possible to do in every season and takes some time training everyone to STAY AWAY FROM MOM, but if I know I have some guaranteed solitude coming, it is easier not to excuse little attempts to grab solitude here and there which are just distracting, throw off my rhythm, and don't even result in satisfying aloneness. DH is also very good about making sure I LEAVE THE HOUSE BY MYSELF NOT TO GROCERY SHOP for a few hours every week. When those are consistent, it is surprisingly way easier to tell myself, "hey, you're getting a nice break in another two hours, you really don't need to go hide in the bathroom right now and will in fact enjoy your break more if you power through this lesson, chore, whatever."

Okay, so that's just "Make your kids have a quiet time," which has to be some of the oldest homeschooling mom advice out there, and I'm sure you've done it, but it's good advice, lol. And needs repeated sometimes - I initially had scheduled lessons with my eldest this year during my youngest's nap and the other kids' quiet time and quickly realized that was not going to work.

And now I'm going to go put on a podcast and clean the kitchen!

Edited by LostCove
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54 minutes ago, mms said:

I can send you my copy to borrow if you like.

That would be so kind! I will email you. I had another idea to bounce of you, too.

I actually would like to get into a broader discussion of the post-EFL years, implementing Fr. Donnelly methods, classical languages, etc, etc, but perhaps I will start a new thread or resurrect one of the older ones for that because I also still have a couple things to say about the last two chapters of Bookless Lessons. 

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We used to have quiet time in our house, but it disappeared at some point when things were topsy-turvy, and never got put back. Will have to think about that.  Thanks for the reminder.

My sense is that most of the in-depth discussion of high school curriculum, especially about the choice of subjects, would be better moved to another thread.  The ideas we’ve been referring to above aren’t specific to EFL, and weren’t her area of expertise, as they were with so many who worked in classical colleges and girls’ schools.  (I actually came across EFL’s books while praying for “an elementary school version of Father Donnelly.”)  Nor did she endorse classical education for all children.  It’s unclear to me what she would suggest for the large proportion of students in our time who might not be a good fit for something like the Vittorino model, but would still be going on to higher education.  

Still, this thread seems like a good place to discuss how we might implement a particular high school plan in ways that are compatible with EFL’s ideas about, say, personal growth and family life.  Also, of course, how we can continue to help our older children to develop the fundamental skills and character traits that she considered essential for everyone. 

 

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On 9/9/2020 at 2:24 PM, ElizaG said:

My sense is that most of the in-depth discussion of high school curriculum, especially about the choice of subjects, would be better moved to another thread.  The ideas we’ve been referring to above aren’t specific to EFL, and weren’t her area of expertise, as they were with so many who worked in classical colleges and girls’ schools.  (I actually came across EFL’s books while praying for “an elementary school version of Father Donnelly.”)  Nor did she endorse classical education for all children.  It’s unclear to me what she would suggest for the large proportion of students in our time who might not be a good fit for something like the Vittorino model, but would still be going on to higher education.  

Still, this thread seems like a good place to discuss how we might implement a particular high school plan in ways that are compatible with EFL’s ideas about, say, personal growth and family life.  Also, of course, how we can continue to help our older children to develop the fundamental skills and character traits that she considered essential for everyone. 

This distinction makes sense to me. I just dug up an old Fr. Donnelly thread to resurrect, and apparently we discussed the content subjects in middle school back then, lol.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Back to the planner question for EFL style lessons!

I started out this year using a full-sized teacher planner, with a row for each day of the week and a column for each child, but it’s inconvenient to carry around and still doesn’t have enough space.  

I’m wondering if it would work to have a weekly planning sheet and record sheet (separate or combined) for each child, which I could keep on a clipboard, and store in a binder when done.  

The other possibility I’ve been thinking about  is some sort of app (iOS or Android) that I could use to make notes for each of our meetings. This would have the advantage of letting me add links to web pages and stored documents, either for my own reference or to share with the children.  I already have the meetings in my iPhone calendar, but there doesn’t seem to be a simple way to add notes for each event, or to export or print them all if needed.  It seems like I’d need something different, but I don’t know what.  

LostCove, I remember you were experimenting with your own planning sheets years ago.  Have you found something that works for you?

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On 9/24/2020 at 12:35 PM, ElizaG said:

LostCove, I remember you were experimenting with your own planning sheets years ago.  Have you found something that works for you?

I have made progress, but I'm still working on this. My first two criteria you mentioned:  #1 - "enough space" and #2 - "ease of carrying around." I've also discovered a third essential, for me, namely "not too many different pieces of paper to consult."

At the most general household level, I have a single sheet, back and front, on a "clipfolio" that is working pretty well - going on two years, which is the longest I have ever stuck with something like this! One side has a very general checklist of lessons (not at the level of daily assignments, just basically to make sure I remember what general things I'm supposed to be doing with each kid each day) and then a big blank area for me to keep a log of what actually happens that day, and then the other side has my menu plan (including breakfast, lunch, and snack which has been critical) and a space for me to write down stuff I need to add to my grocery list. So, that's not what you're looking for, but I'm just so pleased I've finally developed something that has worked for me long term, I had to mention it, lol. 

But, yes, I'm still trying to figure out how best to keep track of the more granular-level of lesson plans and assignments. Last year, I printed stuff out syllabus-style, for a whole term or unit (so, eg, I had a "Hiawatha" syllabus and a "letter-writing" syllabus and a "zoology" syllabus, etc, etc). This doesn't seem very EFLish, with her statement that you should just plan what you are doing the night before, but at this point, juggling five children, that is not going to work.

The term syllabus helped somewhat, but I had to look at so many different things to know what I was doing all day, which I did not like. On a given day, I really just need to know what to do that day, not also what I'm hoping to do three weeks from now. I've found the more I can just keep in front of my eyes specifically the things that need to happen right now and only those, the better I am at doing them. So that led to the adoption of my criteria #3.

Some time in the past year, I read through Pam Barnhill's Plan Your Year - she has a lot of different ideas for different types of homeschoolers that can be put together in somewhat modular ways, and for a non-planner like myself, I found it helpful. It got me thinking a little more creatively about how to set up plans beyond the teacher planner. 

And so this year, I'm still making those term-level syllabi as a reference for pulling together my weekly plan. Then, everyone has their own assignment sheets for the week, so their mostly-independent work just goes on there and I don't really have to worry about (like what pages they're doing in their math book or how many beans they are counting by or whatever). For the stuff that I'm more directly involved with, I've been trying to put it all on a grid on one piece of paper for each week. That is where I keep specific notes, references to resources, etc.

This is working...alright. I'm still tweaking it. I like a grid more than a list, but I'm struggling to figure out how to have enough room for everything in that format and still have it clean and easy to read. I wish there was a way to combine it with my master household sheet and have everything in one place, but I just don't think it can all fit. Maybe I will end up getting myself another clipfolio and splitting the homeschool stuff off from the general household stuff, but I'm also kind of afraid to mess with that because it's been working pretty well for a while now. 

An app is an interesting possibility - Evernote would probably work just fine for what you are talking about. There's a lot more even fancier productivity apps out there now than the last time I looked for that particular silver bullet a few years ago - I was kind of intrigued by this one. I don't know, I think I just do better on follow-through when this stuff is analog. But that's just me! 

But I'm also interested in your idea of creating one sheet per kid - for some reason that has never occurred to me, ha. That would be a lot of sheets of paper, which might fail my criteria #3, BUT what if instead of me keeping it with MY clipboard, it is kept in the kid's school bin with their books and such and THEY are responsible for bringing it to our lessons, so I would only be dealing with it when I was actually sitting down with them. Hmmmm, that might work...

Edited by LostCove
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Thank you both for the posts.  Apps are looking too complicated for me at the moment, so it seems that sheets of paper are the way to go.  I’ll just have to choose a format.  Will be including the menu, shopping and to-do lists as well.  

mms, I can relate to your last sentence!  It only occurred to me now, after reading your post, that I’ve been attempting to use Great Big Planners for three years in a row.  🙄 The first one, a disc-bound teacher’s planner that I found at Target, was enormous but still lacked enough space.  Then last year, in a moment of stress-induced folly, I bought a smaller (but still bulky) disc-bound one at a craft store.  It had a nice cover and lots of cutesy stickers, which I guess I thought would make all the difference.  😄  This year’s model, a standard spiral-bound one, was relatively streamlined by comparison.   

My older children each have their own half-size planner that gets pretty full with assignments, and that’s not even counting the younger ones.   Not sure how I thought I could fit notes and reminders for all of that, along with enrichment activities and my personal stuff, in any sort of weekly spread!

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  • 1 month later...

With the recent account deletions, we lost at least one long-time poster on the EFL threads, along with all of her posts.  Several related threads are gone as well.  I'm gathering the links to the remaining ones I can find.  Please share any others.  The search function on this site, and Google search, both seem to be unreliable at present. 

2014

Comparison of EFL to the Bluedorns - Addressed to Hunter, who had been posting about various "old-school" approaches.  (Hunter, if you're reading this, it's great to see you back on the boards!)

Big thread #1

 

2015

Ella Frances Lynch arithmetic

A small thread about scheduling, or maybe about not-scheduling

 

2016

Big thread #2

 

Not sure if this is related to the deletions or the search problems, but I can't find the thread that mentions the 1940 liturgical conference in which Mary Perkins Ryan recommended EFL's Orbis Vivus Latin booklet.  It also had a description of a disagreement between Dietrich von Hildebrand and a church architect who was at the conference.  This seemed to me to be related to 20th century trends in Catholic education, in which (supposed) medieval ideals were being promoted over Renaissance ones.  I hope that thread turns up. 

Over here, we're gradually getting back to doing more EFL-ish lessons.   This is going fairly well, but it's not leaving me with the capacity for sustained thought about psychology or educational theory.   So the comparison of traditional methods to perceptual control theory might have to wait a while. 

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This thread loss is quite distressing! Losing everything from the private group during the last board upgrade was bad enough! I do remember the thread you are talking about, though a quick look through my "followed content" did not turn it up. However, I did find another thread for your list:

More articles by Ella Frances Lynch (2015)

Ack, looking at these older discussions always gets me wondering how so much time has passed since I first started trying to implement these ideas and why aren't I better at it by now? 😂 But it also makes me think about how different things would look around here if I hadn't encountered them at all! 

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Having the same feeling here!  At least my children who were under age 7 when I discovered EFL do seem to be very observant and attentive.  It might just be coincidence, but it could also be due to the various "educational" things I stopped doing.  (It's less likely to be due to the EFL-ish things I've started doing, as they've been relatively few and far between.)  I'm just loath to let the middle children start using the Internet, because that seems to have been an overall hindrance to the older ones.  Maybe they can use it when they're, IDK, 30?   Feeling kind of Plato-ish on this subject.  😄

I look forward to keeping the discussion going, though it won't be the same without the  missing person(s). 🙁 

Here's something I've been wondering about:  How did EFL teach the older students in her "schools of individual instruction?"  Her anecdotes on this subject might be our best available resource for understanding her approach to upper elementary and high school.  This might relate somewhat to your question in the Fr. Donnelly thread, about finding the right balance between teaching and independent study.  It's also worth noting that students joined her schools at various ages, and she still got reasonably good results with the latecomers (albeit usually more slowly).  So perhaps her advice in this area might be relevant to those of us who've started late, or haven't been entirely successful in implementing her ideas at the primary level.

An article in the New England Journal of Education (1915) , about the experiment with individual instruction in the Oakland public schools, says that the method of EFL's schools is "well known."  I can't find any articles from that time about the schools themselves, though.  Are they just talking about the bits she mentioned in Educating the Child at Home?  Or was this some sort of grapevine thing? 

Here's an article in Normal Instructor and Primary Plans (1917) about the school in Mountain Lakes.  Has this one been posted before?  Only have time to skim it right now, as it's past my bedtime, but it looks interesting. 

And here's the entire 1912 Ladies' Home Journal, which had multiple articles by EFL, as referred to in that article.  It sounds as though there might be some that we haven't seen before.  Maybe one of us can do some digging. 

Edited by ElizaG
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The Internet giveth and taketh away, once again.  I did some searching and found several EFL-related post-1923 books and articles that have been made public, likely because their copyrights were not renewed.   There are also some earlier ones that I haven't seen before. 

The Editor, 1914 - announces that the Pictorial Review will run a series of articles by EFL on the rebuilding of the school system (starting in the March issue), and will give a $500 prize to the best constructive criticism of her ideas.  I haven't been able to find any libraries that have those issues of the Pictorial Review itself, though.  ProQuest has some, but only up to 1906.  I guess, as a popular illustrated women's magazine, it wasn't considered a serious enough publication to archive.  🙁

A Course in Methods of Arithmetic by Sister Mary Eberharda Jones, OSF (1926) - makes reference to EFL's arithmetic methods

Latin Notes, v. 1-6 (publication for classical teachers, from Columbia University, 1923-29) - has some information about her Latin method, and a sample exercise from an 8 year old

James Mahoney, 1865-1915 - self-published by his sister Nellie; has a little bit about the early years of the "teacher-mothers' movement," and a reminiscence of Mahoney from EFL

Fortnightly Review, Dec. 1931 - article by EFL, "Why Parents Go Wrong," identifying pitfalls in the child-rearing advice of the time

Fortnightly Review, Mar. 1932 - condensed version of the article about EFL from La Civilta Cattolica (by the conservative Jesuit Fr. Mario Barbera), which was reprinted by The Wanderer

Catechetical Sermon-Aids by the Most Reverend Joseph Schlarman (B. Herder, 1942) - quotes EFL on discipline a few times; I wonder how many sermons she made it into!

Edited by ElizaG
misspelled Bishop Schlarman's surname
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From the Normal Instructor article on the Mountain Lakes school:

-----

[The public school was set up in a house, in which the teachers lived in two rooms and the kitchen.] 

The other bedrooms, the dining-room, the living room with its cozy fireplace, and the large veranda were our schoolrooms. In place of desks, we had chairs and tables of various sizes. There was not much to make the place attractive, but it was at least an enjoyable change from the ordinary schoolroom. We had twenty-five pupils, from beginners to sophomores in high school. Of course, Individual Instruction was impossible if all of the children were present at one time, so we arranged a schedule that would keep us busy from eight till four, and assure a sufficient degree of Individual Instruction for each child. The younger ones remained in school one hour in the morning and one in the after noon, while those of the grammar grades or beyond satisfied the State requirements by coming from eight till twelve, with the understanding that if their work was not satisfactorily done, they would return in the afternoon to finish it.

Our plan of instruction almost entirely eliminated the recitation. The time of each student was spent in study, with such help as he needed, and no more, for the mastery of his subject. It was gratifying to see how naturally the beginners took to this method, and how correspondingly difficult it was for the boys who had been used to idling one half of their time in the recitation to settle down to continuous conscientious work.

We tried always to have each child put the most time upon the subject which most needed it. There were no bells to say when work on one subject should end, but study of that subject lasted until there was some logical reason for ending it. We did not attempt to teach all the branches outlined by the State syllabus, but undertook to lay a strong foundation in reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic.

We abolished entirely examinations and the marking system. In their place, we substituted the rule that every child must do an honest day’s work every day. When this was accomplished, he was allowed to go home. All written work was done in note books, and dated, and became an intelligent and accurate record of the pupil’s progress. Promotion came daily or as often as the child was ready for it. It did not depend upon a mark, but upon the mastery of a subject. No one was kept back for another. No home work was given unless a child asked for it; in short, it was our aim to make the school a place where no artificial stimulus to interest was needed.

(...) No pupil failed to do one year’s work. Progress was more rapid with the beginners, none of whom failed to do two years’ work, as measured by public school standards, and several accomplished three years’ work in one.

[Story of progress made by a 14 year old boy, known as a troublemaker, who started the year illiterate]

[Story that EFL also told, about 3rd and 4th graders learning Marc Antony's oration from Julius Caesar]

[Story of an 18 year old girl who had left high school out of boredom, but became a dedicated and eager student at the school of Individual Instruction]

[The school building doubled as a community center; it was used for Sunday School, church service, and sometimes for the local literary society.]

The life of the teachers was a strenuous one, physically, mentally and morally. But no amount of extra effort is ever felt by a teacher who knows that it is appreciated, or sees some of the results of her service. In many, many respects, the experiment in Individual Instruction at Mountain Lakes might have been improved upon, but we were cheered at the end of the year by the words of the county superintendent who said, "I wish I were young again. I’d go out and devote my life to this work. ”

EDITOR'S NOTE: For the benefit of our new subscribers who may be interested in the subject of Individual Instruction, we call attention to a series of four articles by Frederic Burk published in this magazine January-April, 1917, with title "Individual Instruction versus the Lockstep System."

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Here are the articles by Frederick Burk.  Burk was the president of the San Francisco State Normal School, and Normal Instructor described him as a leading progressive educator of the time. 

January 1917, part 1 and part 2

February 1917, part 1 and part 2

March 1917, part 1 and part 2

April 1917, part 1 and part 2

In 1912, Burk wrote a series of articles on education, which ran in the Ladies' Home Journal right after EFL's.   (She wrote on elementary schools; he wrote on high schools.)  In 1913, he started the experiment in elementary schooling described in the above articles, which sounds a lot like her system.  But as far as I can tell, he doesn't mention her at all. 

This is very fishy!  Maybe the later article was an attempt to redress this. 

Edited by ElizaG
misspelled Burk’s first name!
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Oh, wow, thank you for digging these links up! I'm looking forward to reading through them more closely this weekend but this bit you quoted: "Of course, Individual Instruction was impossible if all of the children were present at one time, so we arranged a schedule that would keep us busy from eight till four," sounds a bit like life here now, so maybe I am on the right track after all. 😂

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I looked into the history of the "Burk plan" a bit more.   Much of this doesn't relate directly to EFL, but I find it of interest because Normal Instructor seemed to equate the two methods. 

Burk's version of events is that he developed the system of individual instruction used in San Francisco.  It was mostly original, but was influenced somewhat by the Pueblo plan (a complicated, expensive system that was proposed by Preston Search a couple of decades earlier).  Later, some of the teachers who trained under him, such as Carleton Washburne, left and created spin-off versions elsewhere.

Washburne and Marland's book on the Winnetka plan gives a different account.   They point out that the experiment at the SF State Normal School was initiated by Mary Ward, a teacher trainer who specialized in arithmetic.  She and her student teachers were trying various methods to accommodate different rates of student progress.  Around 1912, they ended up giving the children individual assignments, which the teachers then saved and re-used later with other children. 

I haven't been able to find out whether or not Ward had heard of EFL's schools at this time.  It does seem somewhat likely, as EFL was already well-known enough in 1912 to be presented as an expert on education in a major magazine.  (BTW, this reminded me that we know of at least one article by EFL that precedes the LHJ series:  "The Bright Child" in Psychological Clinic, October 1910.  It includes an overview of her thinking on education, and some information about how her schools were run.   For instance, she specifies that a teacher works with each child for 40 minutes per day, then dismisses the child to work independently for the rest of the day.  I think the younger children must have had less time, at least at the Mountain Lakes school, as that would work out to more than 8 hours of teaching, not including the group reading of literature.)

It seems that Burk's main contribution to the SF plan was to supervise the compiling of the teacher-created assignments into workbooks.  All of the earliest workbooks were meant to be used with textbooks, but some of the later ones were designed to stand alone.  He was also very interested in data regarding student progress, IQ testing, and other quantitative concerns.

Washburne came into the picture after the method had become established.  His degree was in physiology, but he had taken a job as a public school principal in Southern California because he was out of work.  As an outsider to education, he thought the system was ridiculous and started doing his own thing, which included letting students progress at individual rates.  The following year, he was put in charge of a special education class, where he used similar methods with success.   He became frustrated, though, when the superintendent told him that he couldn't use these methods with normal classes. 

At this point, he read Burk's "Monograph A:  A Remedy for Lock-Step Schooling" (which I haven't been able to find).  Washburne wrote to Burk, describing his experiences and asking for help in finding a suitable job.  Burk invited him to come to San Francisco and supervise the teacher training for elementary science.  For the first three months, he was apprenticed to Mary Ward, who taught him how the system worked.  

He then developed an elementary science curriculum from scratch, using two methods:

1) identifying common phenomena that need to be explained, and classifying them by the scientific principles involved, and

2) writing down children's questions and classifying them. 

While his lengthy description of the origins of life on Earth probably wouldn't have gone over well with EFL (or even with later science), his overall attitude seems relatively sane for an educationist.   The introduction to Common Science (1920) explains how this textbook was used with the individual method.  

Washburne is best known for his complete overhaul of the school system in Winnetka, Illinois, which is described in many standard works on the history of education.  Like Burk, he relied heavily on prepared, "self-teaching" workbooks, with standardized tests used to determine placement.   Apparently he took this even farther than Burk did.  I guess we could see the Winnetka experiment as the progenitor of something like "ACE Paces."

Edited by ElizaG
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Searching archive.org for "League of Teacher-Mothers" turned up a few additional references that don't include EFL's name.  The longest is a paragraph in a 1975 book by Wood Smethurst, Teaching Young Children to Read at Home, which might be available to preview on the site.  (For now, anyway.  There's a lawsuit ongoing over whether or not they can "lend" a scanned copy of a physical book that they own.)

The information is as follows:

"The League claimed seven thousand members and had an illustrious Advisory Committee that in 1923 included, among others, the then-current U.S. Commissioner of Education, as well as a former U.S. Commissioner of Education, the superintendent of the Pennsylvania schools, the headmaster of Penn Charter School, the editor of The Journal of Education, a former president of New York University, and the superintendent of the Atlantic City public schools."

Smethurst says that the League sold Educating the Child at Home to interested parents for $1.50.  They also sold "a complete kit with instructions, a four month supply of practice paper, and 'Bookless Lessons for the Teacher-Mother'" for $5. 

Would "practice paper" be lined paper for the preschool and primary years?  I've been wondering what sort of line spacing she recommended. 

 

ETA:  An article about Dr. Wood Smethurst (1933-2015), by all accounts a wonderful teacher himself.   May he rest in peace.

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I'm still working through all these links, but have you seen this book, Individual Instruction in English Composition? I haven't looked at it closely yet, but he has a lengthy section describing various "individual instruction" experiments through the 1920s - Burk is mentioned, but not EFL or any of the schools she was associated with, at least going by the index. Might have some interesting context, though this guy definitely seems to have his own opinions about the whole endeavor.

I also thought I noticed as I was poking around last night that older references to "individual instruction" seemed to usually be aimed at the remedial or "backward" student. This connotation seems to fade by the late 1910s. I'm not sure if that is significant or not, or if it even reflects actual usage and isn't just a coincidence of the sources I happened to turn up, but it did put me in mind of the trajectory of Montessori's work, and of course, EFL took a particular interest in the late bloomer. 

More thoughts later hopefully, if the 3yo takes a good nap. 😆

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According to the 1914 Who's Who, there were also branches of EFL's School of Individual Instruction in Ridgewood, NJ, and NYC - is there another source for this, because I don't think I've seen that any where else? 

I realized that beyond the dates of the Mountain Lakes school and various EFL publications, I didn't have a great sense of the chronology of her various efforts, so here's a rough attempt to make sure I have things more or less straight: 

1882: born in Minerva, NY

Plattsburg State Normal School sometime around the turn of the century, presumably

Teaches in NY, and NJ

1910: "The Bright Child" published

1912: LHJ articles, Mountain Lakes School

1914: Educating the Child at Home

Somewhere in here she moves to Bryn Mawr to open a School for Individual Instruction

1916: Her first articles about the League of Teacher-Mothers (like this article and this one). She talks a little bit about organizing a local club, and even offers to send you by-laws and a constitution. It sounds like something a bit more decentralized than what it became maybe? She is profiled in the Journal of Education by Helen Johnson Keyes, who compares her to Bastien LePage's Joan of Arc!

1917: more articles publicizing the League of Teacher-Mothers

1922: Bookless Lessons for the Mother Teacher. This seems to launch another round of publicity for the League, including advertising and her statement that "this is the first time in three years I am able to renew my invitation for mothers to write to me." You also start seeing ads for the League around this time, and EFL has started charging money for her consultation, which I assume means it had become her full-time work by now. She is still in Bryn Mawr. Around this time Caroline Katzenstein, noted suffragist, often appears listed as the "secretary" for the League in various directories. 

At some point it goes from being the National League of Teacher-Mothers to the International League of Teacher-Mothers.

1930s: in this decade, it seems that EFL diverges from the mainstream a bit - or perhaps more accurately, the mainstream becomes less hospitable to her perspective. She criticizes organizations and publications she had once worked with or appeared in. She seems to get more coverage in the Catholic press. She also travels internationally to speak. 

1945: death in the Adirondacks

Ok, not sure if that is helpful or of interest to anyone else, but I'm glad to have clarified it for myself. I'm not clear on when her bit of involvement with the liturgical movement really starts - Eliza, do you have a sense of that? I also don't know when she moves back to NY. I would be interesting to get a better sense of her speaking engagements - where she went when, what kind of groups she spoke to, etc. Based on the various allusions to them, her travels must have been extensive, but I only occasionally come across any specifics. 

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It's interesting that Mary Ward in San Francisco specialized in arithmetic, because EFL also taught arithmetic in Atlantic City, and when I think about her books, her arithmetic exercises feel the most programmatic to me. I have had a lot of success with them in our homeschool, and they seem to work most like "individual instruction" often seems to be described at this time, with a clear and sequential path the student can study largely on their own at their own pace, with occasional guidance from a teacher. Part of the reason that the title of the Stephens book jumped out at me is that I'm having a hard time imagining how language studies could possibly be set up in a similar way to the arithmetic without it becoming some kind of worksheet-based system. But the article by the teacher at the Mountain Lakes school describes a group literature lesson that took 30 minutes daily for 3rd and 4th graders, so I guess that even in EFL's schools, that was a subject that required more teacher interaction.

After reading a little bit more, I think I'd have to nominate the Batavia System as probably the most likely published system to have interacted with EFL in some way - it was developed and implemented geographically nearest to her during the right time frame, and if you read some of John Kennedy's writings about it, they hit many of the same themes as EFL. But it also differs in important respects, especially in that the point of the system was to help the children of a given class progress together as a group by giving individualized instruction, not to adapt the rate of progress to the individual child.

Stephens distinguishes in his book between the "old" system of individual instruction that existed prior to age-grading and group recitations and the "new" system of efficient, one might say "data-driven" individual instruction that Burk and the Wannetka System represent. I suppose this explains EFL's initially warm reception by mainstream educational organizations who believed her to be a part of this newer movement, when in fact, I think she is attempting to preserve an older tradition and adjust it to new conditions.

It also explains her unique emphasis on a pretty tightly circumscribed curriculum (the article about the Mountain Lakes school mentions that they ignored many of the state curricular requirements and in "The Bright Child," she pretty much dismisses American history, lol) and her valuing the student's own time, not just understanding "efficiency" as a matter of getting as many students as possible through a given curriculum as quickly as possible, as Stephens et al. seem to. It accounts for the increasing emphasis on diagnostic testing for the new individual instructors, while EFL remained adamantly opposed to examinations and asserted they did not provide useful information to teachers. You see this shift among the new individual instructors towards the idea of "self-instruction" and away from the idea of individual instruction received from a teacher, who becomes mainly a monitor and certifier of individuals' progress and, I guess, a keeper-of-order in the classroom. EFL's system remains very personal. 

Here are my practical takeaways for now: in elementary school, 40 minutes of one-on-one time with a child and another hour and a half to two hours of independent work maximum would be adequate to cover the most essential subjects (the 3 Rs and maybe geography, it seems? I wonder how she fit Latin in there, which she taught in Bryn Mawr but not Mountain Lakes), but even her older students' days were only about four hours long. I'm relying on readers more than I need to in the early grades. If I ever need tests to know what is going on with my students, I'm doing it wrong. Literary studies do just take more face time with an instructor. Um, probably one or two more things, but the 3yo's patience has reached its limit.

Edited by LostCove
geez, how many times can I use the word "also"?
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I don't know much about the history of her schools, but it's my understanding that she founded the first one in Atlantic City in 1907.  

Re the liturgical movement, we'd probably have to look at back issues of Orate Fratres.   I think it's in the EBSCO Religion database, but I don't know how to get access as an individual.  Paper copies also seem scarce.  I've been hoping for years that the archives would turn up online, in a format that was at least searchable (if not viewable), but it hasn't happened yet.  Archive.org has a few issues from the 1920s and 50s, but there seems to be no mention of EFL in those. 

I've been looking through the Mahoney book, and it's a very interesting collection of essays and other biographical material.  He was a scholar and humanitarian who taught in the Boston public high schools for 26 years.  It was said that he didn't rise higher in the school system because he refused to cultivate connections with the textbook companies.  Apparently the "book racket" had additional dimensions back then!

 

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Just found a tidbit in the booklet Home Instruction:  A Growing Alternative to Public Schools by Jim Buchanan, which can be previewed on archive.org.  It was published in 1984 by Vance Bibliographies.  It has a brief introduction about the history of homeschooling in the United States up to that point, and then the rest of the book is a bibliography.  Almost all of the items are magazine articles about homeschooling from the 1970s and 80s (some of which might be worth reading in their own right), but page 8 has this entry:

"Lynch, Ella Frances.  Educating the Child at Home.  New York:  Gordon Press, n.d."

It's interesting that her book is the only pre-1975 resource on the list, and that it's undated.  Was this an edition that was published in her own time, or a later reprint? 

I also wonder how the bibliographer found out about her.   Maybe he just looked in the library catalogue?  But then there's that brief quotation from her in the Clarksons' Educating the Whole Hearted Child, which has always made me wonder if her books were known among at least some of the pioneers of the homeschooling revival.

Edited by ElizaG
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On 11/28/2020 at 5:41 PM, ElizaG said:

I also wonder how the bibliographer found out about her.   Maybe he just looked in the library catalogue?  But then there's that brief quotation from her in the Clarksons' Educating the Whole Hearted Child, which has always made me wonder if her books were known among at least some of the pioneers of the homeschooling revival.

I read my first EFL articles on the North Carolinians for Home Education website. Someone had gone to the trouble of typing up several of EFL's articles for their website, and I've wondered who it was and where they came across them, because that is the only reference to EFL I've ever seen in the wider homeschooling world beyond this forum. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I finally ordered a print version of Bookless Lessons, because the pdf was driving me batty. 

My kids are 2, 4 and 6; I’m really interested in anyone who has adopted EFL’s approach (philosophy? method?) for a length of time sufficient enough to witness its effects. What are they?

We have been reading basically ten books (fairy tales, Mother Goose, Longfellow, the Bible, a Psalter), which is a big drop from our former 100 library books a month. The kids still read picture books on their own. 

I realized that I don’t know anything I should. It’s kind of sad that EFL reassures “if you can name the birds outside your window you are fit to teach your child”, because I don’t know any bird names (or plants or flowers).

Edited by GracieJane
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1 hour ago, GracieJane said:

I realized that I don’t know anything I should. It’s kind of sad that EFL reassures “if you can name the birds outside your window you are fit to teach your child”, because I don’t know any bird names (or plants or flowers).

Well, by one definition of "should." This perhaps is a good argument that you shouldn't teach your child bird names, and isn't a good argument you shouldn't teach your child the things you DO know. 

This is why I tend to be pretty skeptical of teaching philosophies. People are ultimately best at teaching what THEY know and what THEY love. The best teaching is done by people passionate about their work.

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52 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Well, by one definition of "should." This perhaps is a good argument that you shouldn't teach your child bird names, and isn't a good argument you shouldn't teach your child the things you DO know. 

This is why I tend to be pretty skeptical of teaching philosophies. People are ultimately best at teaching what THEY know and what THEY love. The best teaching is done by people passionate about their work.

I agree and it seems that EFL would agree, too. I think the concept behind “naming the birds” is to teach what you know. My lament is more that - in some historic time - an ordinary mother could have a register of bird names to reach from (should her child ask), and I don’t.

But I guess my goals right now are much humbler, and reading Bookless Lessons and Educating the Child at Home has been transformative in forcing me to choose what is worth learning (at 6 or any age?) and what isn’t. But I’m still intrigued to see how it develops 1 or 5 or 10 years from here. 🙂

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  • 3 weeks later...

This is just a simple question that I've been wondering about for a while.  EFL, as well as many leaders in the public and Catholic schools of her time, believed that an average pupil who was a native English speaker could easily finish grades 1-8 in 6 years. 

So what I'd like to understand is:  What did the typical American 8th grade curriculum look like, circa 1920?  How did it differ from current expectations?

I've seen some "can you pass this vintage 8th grade exam?" pages, but nothing that gives a thorough list of the subjects and requirements. 

I'll post information as I find it.  Just wanted to open up the question for discussion. 

Edited by ElizaG
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Searching archive.org for "course of study" turns up many examples, but they're usually specific to one subject.  I guess English would be a good one to start with.

Course of Study in English, Public Schools, Rochester, NY, 1914

This one, for parochial schools, was published in one volume, but it's also organized by subject rather than by grade. 

Course of Study for the Elementary and Grammar Grades, Archdiocese of San Francisco, 1922

Please feel free to post others. 

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As for what her system looks like five years down the road, I can't say much from my own experience.  For one thing, I've only been able to follow her advice to a limited extent.  For another, there have been many other changes in our family situation, and it's hard to know what caused what. 

I've just been reading some of my own EFL posts from five years ago, and was surprised to see that my current challenges are very similar to the ones I was writing about back then.  In particular, I don't think my attempts to implement her methods with the older children had much of an effect.  This makes sense, as the advice in her books really isn't tailored to them.  She acknowledges this, but it took me until last year to accept it.

"After my last post, I re-read Understood Betsy.  It was a good reminder about the importance of talking less, and being calm and unflappable.  But I've noticed that when I'm successful at that, certain other family members tend to make up the difference.  Some of them seem to crave drama, and others are just very verbal.  It's hard when they all reinforce each other.  I tried making uncluttered "quiet spaces" in remote corners of the house, so those of us who have had enough can retreat, but they tend to follow us in there."

Alas, this is still happening.  I went into relaxation mode over Christmas - went off caffeine, took up reading light fiction, simplified the cooking - and the drama level seemed to go way up!  Or maybe I just noticed it more. 

The younger ones seem to be doing well overall.  I do have a few concerns, most of which seem to relate pretty directly to certain children having been outside my direct supervision during certain crucial periods.  As all the old-time writers say, it's much harder to fix these things than to prevent them, but sometimes these situations do happen.  (EFL says that she herself started developing bad habits as a child, when her mother was busy with seriously ill siblings.)

Now, if you wanted to know about the effects that trying EFL's approach has had on me - that, I could write about.  Far too much, probably.  But I'll spare you.  The bare bones of it can be found in these threads.  🙂

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17 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

Now, if you wanted to know about the effects that trying EFL's approach has had on me - that, I could write about.  Far too much, probably.  But I'll spare you.  The bare bones of it can be found in these threads.  🙂

Interesting! Do you see a marked difference in the “academic” accomplishments of the two groups of children? EFL shifts reading and math to a later age and I always wonder if that makes a difference (as you said, she also thinks the learning will be compressed by early habits).

I’ve been reading Victorian class books, which are essentially exercises in elocution and “edification” for young girls. I’m curious what girls were supposed to do with all this edifying. Culture the men, perhaps. 😉

I also read Ruskin’s book for young women, and it seems like there was a general handwringing over what wealthy young ladies ought to learn and do with their time. 

It’s not a school, but this “Letters to a Young Governess” lists a “course of education” with subjects and books “for instruction in the earliest years”.

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=njp.32101065979617&view=1up&seq=11

 

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However, since there are neither Victorian Englishmen nor young ladies in my home, that was a digression.

My insurmountable EFL challenge has been to “answer the question asked, not  the one hoped for”. This ought to be so easy, yet it turns out to be incredibly difficult in practice. I once worked for an attorney who insisted on this exact principle and it works (!) to order your thoughts and speak with precision. I’m not fast enough to catch myself or my children in this. 

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26 minutes ago, GracieJane said:

Interesting! Do you see a marked difference in the “academic” accomplishments of the two groups of children? EFL shifts reading and math to a later age and I always wonder if that makes a difference (as you said, she also thinks the learning will be compressed by early habits).

It's hard to say, as the younger ones are still in the elementary years, and I haven't done heavy academics at that stage with either group.  It does seem to me that the older ones were more "prodigious" in the early years, in the sense of voluntarily reading stacks of books, memorizing lists of information, and doing various art and writing projects.  On the other hand, the younger ones tend to be more sociable and observant, with more common sense, and spend their free time just playing or hanging out.  But some of that could be because they have a built-in crowd to socialize with, and more household activities to observe.  

It does sometimes bother me that my current elementary children don't read as much.  They're able to read well for their ages, but they don't have as much general knowledge as their older siblings did at the same age.  I'm not sure this is a problem; they seem to have plenty of knowledge of things they've experienced, or that we've read about together, and I'm sure they'll pick more up in the future.  But it does have me wondering if perhaps I should be more intentional about the content subjects.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's been months since I started attempting to write about Perceptual Control Theory (aka PCT) in the context of EFL's educational advice, and I don't think waiting longer is going to make my efforts much better.  So here goes. 

Perceptual Control Theory is a model of human behavior that's supposed to supersede the established models of behaviorism and cognitive psychology.  It was developed in the 1970s by William T. Powers, and is based on cybernetics, which is the study of control in both living and non-living systems.  The theory takes some time to get one's head around, and I can't do it justice here.  Powers' own books are currently hard to find, but either the Wikipedia article or this PDF overview would provide a fairly good introduction.  (Please feel free to skip any parts that seem overly technical.)  This page also has a flowchart diagram that might be helpful.  And here's a video of the "rubber band demonstration" that's often used as an illustration.

Let me know if you have questions after reading/watching any of those, and I'll try to answer. 

I think PCT makes a lot of sense, and people have tried applying it to diverse fields with very interesting results.  One very big limitation, though, is that its adherents haven't really explored the social aspect of learning.   Perceptual Control Theory says that we can't control others' behavior; we can only try to influence them in ways that might make them more likely to change their internal reference models (what they're "controlling for," in PCT terms).  One writer, Hugh Petrie, points out that a good teacher is controlling for actual learning on the part of the student, and makes adjustments to his teaching based on his perceptions of the student's learning.  

This seems reasonable, as far as it goes.  But one of the ideas in PCT is that the the changing of internal reference models (aka "reorganization") is a random trial-and-error process, in which the individual unconsciously goes through a lot of options until he finds the one that best resolves the situation.  To me, in many types of relationships - parent-child, adolescent peer-peer, master-apprentice, boot camp - there seems to be something much more direct going on.  At times, one person appears to be doing much of the controlling for both people.   More precisely, it seems that the follower is in some sort of special state where he's "controlling for" the same things that the leader is "controlling for."  

This reminds me of something EFL wrote about in reference to the very young child.  She said that because his will is undeveloped, we have to substitute our own will in its place.   Maria Montessori also wrote at length about the development of the child's will, and my impression is that this aspect is often misrepresented in modern accounts of her thinking.  I'll post some references about this separately.

Getting back to PCT, the application that interests me most is Ed Ford's.  He was a social worker who did counseling, wrote self-help books, and developed a system of discipline for schools.  After looking into his ideas, I discovered that he was also a Catholic father of eight, who seems to have had very good relationships with his wife and children.  Before getting into PCT, he worked as a teacher, then as a counselor using William Glasser's Choice Theory.  He also saw connections between PCT and the thinking of St. Thomas Aquinas.  So his advice was most likely influenced by various aspects of his background.  

Ed Ford believed that that his approach was still fully in line with PCT, and I think this might be true, but a few people in PCT circles (which tend to skew rather secular and individualistic) saw him as a closet authoritarian who was out to control children.  Like Maria Montessori, he was in a hard-to-pigeonhole space.  He was often considered too child-centered by educational conservatives, and too strict by progressives.  

I haven't found any online articles that get into his advice for parents, but here are a couple about his system of school discipline, which is called the Responsible Thinking Process.  (He also created the diagram I linked above.)

Where Lasting Change Takes Place in Individuals

The Idea Behind the RTC

He suggested that the basic ideas of RTP would also work in the home, but I find it difficult to see how it would work in a homeschool setting.  RTP assumes that the school has a dedicated classroom (the RTC), with a teacher to act as supervisor and counselor.  The child is only required to go there during the classes where he or she has been disruptive.  The process also isn't meant to deal with problems that aren't disruptive in a classroom context, such as the child forgetting his books or not doing an assignment. 

So far, I've been trying to take some basic ideas from RTP, modify them to work in the home, and combine them with the advice on family life from his general self-help book Freedom From Stress.  One of the most important recommendations in both books is "quality time;" this phrase makes me cringe as a child of the 1980s, but the underlying idea makes sense.  He said that shared work and active recreation (walks, sports, board games, etc.) were the best ways to build bonds between people.  In PCT terms, these activities seemed to help them to reorganize their control systems in compatible ways.  In his experience, "just talking" or "just being together" didn't accomplish this, nor did passive or consumption-oriented activities such as driving or watching TV.  In one of his books from the early 80s (which might have been before he got into PCT), he expressed opposition to TV not so much because of the content, but because of his belief that it was destroying children's social skills by replacing traditional, more active pursuits.

An essential part of Ed Ford's advice, then, was for the parent to spend daily 1:1 time - ideally, at least half an hour - doing something actively with each child.  This, in itself, has been hugely valuable.  And challenging!   It turns out that a lot of my time spent interacting with the children has been in groups (e.g. "pitching-in" chores), or passive (e.g. driving in the car), or both (e.g. mealtimes).  But insofar as I've been able to follow it, it does seem to make a big difference.  

I'd better stop there; this is getting very long.  Please jump in if you'd like me to explain more about any of the above ideas, or - especially - if you'd like to discuss ways in which they seem to relate to EFL's advice.  

Edited by ElizaG
minor biographical correction
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This is pretty interesting! It seems like the „organizing“ that occurs is value-driven, so that the quality time spent with each child is in essence to know them better (or know their prioritized order of values maybe). My dad used to take us on individual „dates“, which I dreaded, because there was some emotional load factor on each; a sort of quarterly father-child state-of-Union. I imagine the activity and intention makes a big difference in how the child experiences it. 

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I‘m really interested in the idea of supplanting the child’s will, or their undeveloped will. What does that mean?

I‘ve been reading Alexander Bain, a Victorian psychologist, who pioneered a lot of the current conceptual thinking of willpower. His best book IMO is The Emotions and the Will, which heavily influenced George Ainslie‘s hyperbolic discounting model of willpower today (his book is called Breakdown of Will, the best explanation of „strength of will“ I’ve encountered).

I say all that because Bain studied children and the development of their will and wrote this unusual bit about good mothers - in effect - merging their young child’s will with theirs by creating a „current“ of insistence on many small acts of obedience that carries the child to a general will united with their parent. I‘ll link the excerpt.

I can’t remember if it was EFL or Maria Montessori who told teachers to stress the inevitability of obedience (that the child would feel it opposing reality itself) as the key to peaceful discipline, which is exactly what Bain concludes in his psychological profile of will development in children.

I might delete this, I just realized it deviates from the thread.

But I do want to know more about what you think the child‘s undeveloped will. Are children just a set of incongruent impulses, pulling them in many directions? Are you as the parent a „will wrangler“, harnessing those impulses into a unified whole? How much of a parent‘s will is supplanting the child’s, or is too much an inevitable tyranny? 

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On 2/6/2021 at 11:21 AM, GracieJane said:

I say all that because Bain studied children and the development of their will and wrote this unusual bit about good mothers - in effect - merging their young child’s will with theirs by creating a „current“ of insistence on many small acts of obedience that carries the child to a general will united with their parent. I‘ll link the excerpt.

I can’t remember if it was EFL or Maria Montessori who told teachers to stress the inevitability of obedience (that the child would feel it opposing reality itself) as the key to peaceful discipline, which is exactly what Bain concludes in his psychological profile of will development in children.

This is very interesting; thank you for mentioning Bain.

Ironically, I think my earnest attempts to follow Montessori as a new mother might have got in the way of teaching obedience.  As a 20th century North American who'd grown up amid shifting and unclear norms for family and social life, I didn't really have a firm base to work from, and took her ideas of the prepared environment and self-direction to be the starting point.  But Maria Montessori, as an educated and cultured 19th century Italian, saw obedience and civility as a non-negotiable basis for human activity.  Since this was so much a part of her thinking, she rarely talked about it.  According to various biographies, she realized over time that many people, especially Americans, were misunderstanding this.

In 1920, Sheila Radice, the editor of the Times Educational Supplement, wrote a very interesting book on Montessori which I'm reading now.  She addresses this point of underlying values at much greater length than I've seen elsewhere.

The New Children: Talks With Dr. Maria Montessori

 

Edited by ElizaG
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