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Ella Frances Lynch thread #3: New Frontiers


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15 hours ago, GracieJane said:

How do you find Montessori instruction gets in the way of teaching obedience? I read much of The Advanced Montessori Method and it seemed difficult to implement at home. 

It wasn’t the instructional method itself that was the problem.  We weren’t even doing much of that from ages 1-3.  It’s just that there wasn’t much advice in Montessori sources about discipline in the early years, or at least none that made sense to me.  At the time, I read everything I could find, both from MM and various AMI-trained infant/toddler specialists.  MM spoke mostly in generalities, and the other books tended to be heavily materialistic, as if setting up the environment were the key to everything.   

I needed another advice-giver (or several) to fill in the blanks, but couldn’t find one.  Either they were mothers or “child discipline experts” who didn’t think much of Montessori, or they were Montessorians who were vague on the subject of obedience. 

As an example of the latter, see this video, where one tiny child has two parents devoted to facilitating the perfect Montessori toddlerhood.  (We have the full version.  It’s all like that. 😂)

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Here's an observation from So Little For the Mind, by the Canadian historian Hilda Neatby.  She was writing about Dewey-inspired progressives and social reconstructionists, who often spoke of believing in the students' ability to solve problems for themselves.

"Why do they not open to all, as far as they are able, the best of our civilization in literature, science, mathematics, history, art, and then 'have faith' that they, like their predecessors, will build on that foundation?  The faith of our experts is not faith in the ability of all to solve problems but the reverse.  The material which would enable the individual to work out his own salvation is practically withheld in order that he may be more receptive to the ready made solutions that are handed out."

This seems much like something EFL might have said.  And, like EFL, she was accused of all sorts of psychological and personality defects:

"My Small War With the Educators" (Maclean's Magazine, 1954)

 

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The 1936 Classical Bulletin has a short piece about EFL's elementary Latin approach, by Fr. Frank Moellering SJ of Cleveland.  It's a bit blurry, but you should be able to view it here

The same page has a review by Fr. Henle of Sister Mary Immaculate's Latin booklets, which were published by the diocesan teachers' college in Toledo.  It's not clear which institution, if any, might have archives of the Toledo elementary Latin program - diocese, parochial schools, whatever became of the now-defunct college?  Maybe one of us can look into this at some point, as it seems likely that they were influenced by EFL. 

Several years into these threads, and AFAIK none of us has even seen the "Orbis Vivus."  We have access to more online resources than we had even in 2013, but the Internet certainly has its limits. 

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On 1/14/2021 at 1:56 PM, GracieJane said:

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

 

My understanding is that middle-class girls were supposed to be educated so as to edify their friends and social circle; provide a more cultured environment in the home, e.g. by singing and fine needlework; converse in an interesting and helpful way with their husbands; and take charge of their children's early education (and, potentially, their daughters' entire education).  G. K. Chesterton wrote that this might have been a narrow goal, but at least it was a clear goal, whereas the modern approach to "female education" seemed to lack any particular goals at all.  

I've also been reading some governess books, as well as other Victorian books on education.  There seem to be quite a few writers in later decades who combine varying degrees of anti-Catholicism, lack of concern about educating the lower classes, and rejection of old-fashioned reading-based pedagogy in favor of more direct teaching.  And this teaching - whether done by the mother, or the governess, or by "masters" under their close supervision - is supposed to take about five hours a day per child!  So this is looking like the opposite of EFL's approach.   

The book you've linked (by Susan Ridout, published 1840) looks very interesting, though I can't read the whole thing right now.  Does she say much about the governess's role in directing the girl's studies, other than choosing the material?  Are the books to be read aloud, or silently?  How much time is the discussion supposed to take?   I often find it hard to figure these things out, since the authors often took current practices for granted (unless they were setting out to reform them).

I think I've mentioned before that the homeschool curriculum Far Above Rubies seems to me to be quite close to the old reading-based approach to girls' secondary education.  There's a lot that I like about it, and I've sometimes felt inclined to come up with a modified version to use with my own girls. 

This also reminds me of a little "self-education" booklet for older girls who've left school, which was published in the early 20th century by a Belgian home education group (part of an international movement to which EFL belonged).  It contains a reading list of classics and current works on various subjects.  The girl is advised to read the books on her own for a specified period each evening, and to take notes.  She's supposed to be in regular contact with a parent or priest, who can give advice as needed. 

This all points to a tradition of female literary education in the home, which existed alongside such outside institutions as convent academies and "finishing schools." 

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There's a section about one of Susan Ridout's pupils in Anthony Fletcher's Growing up in England.  The Fletcher book appears to be a gold mine of descriptions of home education practices, and unlike many such books, it isn't very expensive second-hand.  

The description of Ridout's pupil's scrapbook, which I was able to view in Amazon preview, sounds much like the child's 3-ring binder that EFL described in Educating the Child at Home.  

How did this work?  Did the governess or parent assign some of the tasks for the scrapbook, or did the child come up with all of them on her own?

I think the whole output question is one of the biggest areas of confusion for me.  Self-directed or assigned, oral or written, expository or creative, etc. 

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1 hour ago, ElizaG said:

The book you've linked (by Susan Ridout, published 1840) looks very interesting, though I can't read the whole thing right now.  Does she say much about the governess's role in directing the girl's studies, other than choosing the material?  Are the books to be read aloud, or silently?  How much time is the discussion supposed to take?   I often find it hard to figure these things out, since the authors often took current practices for granted (unless they were setting out to reform them).

Her appeal to the young governess is to „endeavor to improve every faculty of the (girl‘s) mind; to implant a love for study; to establish principles which become the basis of continually progressive attainment; to exercise the judgment; to refine and correct the taste; to form habits of regularity and industry; to cultivate benevolent and moral feelings; and lastly, so to watch over the physical powers that these shall contribute to the rendering of happy, agreeable, and useful beings.“

(As an aside, I find striking how Victorian pedagogical writers universally insist on the primacy of the quality of usefulness in children; this has all but disappeared in parenting books nowadays, no? When did that happen?)

I think she expected girls to learn two languages (!) (French and Italian), history, physical sciences, Bible history, etc. She gives examples of books and includes several French storybooks, so I guess she assumed the governess would be at least conversant in French? 

Her treatise on young girls developing taste is very interesting, it being the ability to discern and appreciate Beauty (a necessity for her in feminine education). Girls should be taught the definite qualities that merit such a term, which is learned by 1. studying „the most excellent“ poetry and prose, and then 2. reading sound critics. She says by reading esteemed critics, girls will learn the rules governing good taste. I think she uses an example of young ladies reading Paradise Lost and afterwards reading Addison‘s critique of it.

Victorian education practices seem very gendered beginning young adulthood, I guess that’s where the „separate spheres“ became really popular.

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Interesting!  In the Father Donnelly thread, we've been talking a bit about the fact that "training the taste" and "developing the critical sense" used to be significant goals for boys' classical education.  It's rare to find anyone who will advance these aims today, even among self-declared educational conservatives.  There's much more interest in mining the text for religious, philosophical, or moral ideas. 

I'd like to learn more about home education in the Georgian era.  For instance, were English women familiar with classical culture through translations and popular works, as American women were?   This Edwardian-era book on Georgian England mentions that women were taught about classical mythology.  Her description of the overall state of education is very different from Fletcher's, though, and she doesn't give a lot of sources.

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On the subject of usefulness, I wonder if the traditional, concrete goal of children being taught to be useful to their families was being replaced by a more abstract, utilitarian sense of "the individual's usefulness to society."  This would consist of holding the right attitudes, having skills that fit into the economic plan, etc.  This can be seen very obviously in Dewey's thinking, but perhaps was already starting to appear in educational writings in Victorian times and earlier. 

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30 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

Interesting!  In the Father Donnelly thread, we've been talking a bit about the fact that "training the taste" and "developing the critical sense" used to be significant goals for boys' classical education.  It's rare to find anyone who will advance these aims today, even among self-declared educational conservatives.  There's much more interest in mining the text for religious, philosophical, or moral ideas. 

Exactly! It doesn’t seem like girls were expected to imitate in expression that which they read, however. It reads like girls were taught with the goal of „refining“ taste so that they might discern truth (and thereby always return to Christ, the source of highest truth and beauty). „Vanity makes many liars“, she wrote in one of her letters.

ETA: The perfect example of this would be Dorothy Sayers’ translation of Dante‘s Divine Comedy, especially Purgatorio. Her version is so beautifully written, and she includes the critique in the notes. It has all the elements of refining taste and truth that elevates.

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I think the differences in composition work must be partly related to the forms of discourse that were encouraged for women at various times.  Women would read essays and history books, for example, but they weren't expected to write them, at least not until very late in the 19th century.  Letter-writing was for everyone, though, and both boys and girls were often taught to imitate especially good letters. 

My impression is that girls and their teachers did have more freedom in how to write.  Schoolboys were mostly taught to imitate, but girls might imitate or just do their own thing.  But this might be wrong. 

Since college writing professors are subject to the same "publish or perish" model as the rest of academia, there's been a great deal of recent scholarship exploring women's use of rhetoric.  I've barely been able to scratch the surface, due to the sheer volume of books, as well as to their inaccessibility to those without access to academic libraries.  But there is a lot of evidence that imitation, of various sorts, was part of the picture.  

Most of women's discourse was oral, of course, and in edifying their children, young mothers would naturally tend to imitate their mothers and governesses, as well as preachers or others whose speech they heard.  This sort of imitation wouldn't need to be taught formally, but it underlies much of the advice to adults on being a good model.  

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All of this is helping me to clarify my discomfort with the sort of "CM-inspired" homeschooling that's based around lots of picture books.  These books can be lovely and instructive, but what are they teaching our children as models?  Are the children supposed to grow up to write picture books themselves?  Or are they supposed to talk to their future children in picture-book language?  Surely not, in the great majority of situations.

Oral storytelling, as urged by CM herself, makes a lot more sense.  It shows our children skills and examples that they can all share with other children, and with many other people besides.  And the children love it, even when the stories aren't that good.  But that's the problem; my stories often aren't that good at all, and it's embarrassing!  :unsure:  

This also provides a new lens through which to examine the question of the balance between semi-independent reading and direct oral instruction.   We certainly want our children to learn how to teach and explain things to others, from their own minds rather than a book, so we need to model this.  At the same time, they also need to develop the ability to study independently from books, once they're old enough to do so.   

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1 hour ago, ElizaG said:

All of this is helping me to clarify my discomfort with the sort of "CM-inspired" homeschooling that's based around lots of picture books.  These books can be lovely and instructive, but what are they teaching our children as models?  Are the children supposed to grow up to write picture books themselves?  Or are they supposed to talk to their future children in picture-book language?  Surely not, in the great majority of situations.

Oral storytelling, as urged by CM herself, makes a lot more sense.  It shows our children skills and examples that they can all share with other children, and with many other people besides.  And the children love it, even when the stories aren't that good.  But that's the problem; my stories often aren't that good at all, and it's embarrassing!  

Yes! I think about this a lot, especially as it relates to EFL’s principle to never over-explain concepts to children. In oral traditions, most science (like medicine) was repeated in aphorisms that could be passed on generations (“feed a cold, starve a fever”). Proverbs is my favorite book of scripture for that reason, it is probably the most underrated children’s “textbook” for study; any child can understand “a city without walls” as the image of intemperance. 

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It turns out that the woman who wrote the book I linked above, Georgian Education, also wrote some boosterish study notes for a 1920 school edition of Ruskin's essay on political economy, Unto This Last.  This text was published as part of J. M. Dent's "Kings Treasuries of Literature" series, named after the first essay in Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies, which was chosen as the first volume.  The Kings Treasuries stayed in print until the 1950s, and ended up containing over 200 titles.  Unlike earlier school literature series I've looked at, it includes a lot of contemporary non-fiction (what CM would call "living books"), which fits with some of what I've read about Ruskin's educational views.  The printing and binding even has a sort of Arts and Crafts look about it. 

On the other hand, the study notes for Sesame and Liliesby a different editor, are rather more critical.  The section about his personality is downright unflattering!  So I guess it wasn't all sunshine for him by the 1920s, even if he still had some devoted followers.  

Ruskin seems to me to be full of contradictions.  He's currently being promoted as some sort of localist agrarian type who saw the dignity in all labor, but going by his famous inaugural Slade lecture, he was a mega-imperialist who believed that English people should only do ennobling tasks (whether manual or otherwise), and should get the people of other lands to do their base mechanical work.  That's one way of avoiding the issue, I suppose.

What's more, his emphasis on allowing young people to choose their own paths in life, by trying different things in a sort of workshop model of education, seems to be completely at odds with his views on women's role.   

Comparing Ruskin with EFL would be interesting, though he wrote such a lot that it's hard to even know where to start.  The first two books that came up in a search are an overview by an evident admirer, called Ruskin on Education, and a criticism of that author's arguments, called Ruskin Revised.  The second author seems to share my impression about the inconsistencies.  He also includes many quotations that are at least as disturbing as the ones that I've come across.  For instance, in some places, Ruskin goes on at great length about the value of books; in others, he disdains literacy for the laboring classes.  It's as though he just said whatever came into his head.  Maybe, in his mind, that went along with being a Romantic.

Why did EFL quote Ruskin so prominently in Educating the Child at Home?  Why did all the fancy girls' schools have their students read Sesame and Lilies?  Why was he the model and inspiration for a school literature series, decades after his death?  I find the whole thing baffling.  

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27 minutes ago, ElizaG said:

It turns out that the woman who wrote the book I linked above, Georgian Education, also wrote some boosterish study notes for a 1920 school edition of Ruskin's essay on political economy, Unto This Last.  This text was published as part of J. M. Dent's "Kings Treasuries of Literature" series, named after the first essay in Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies, which was chosen as the first volume.  The Kings Treasuries stayed in print until the 1950s, and ended up containing over 200 titles.  Unlike earlier school literature series I've looked at, it includes a lot of contemporary non-fiction (what CM would call "living books"), which fits with some of what I've read about Ruskin's educational views.  The printing and binding even has a sort of Arts and Crafts look about it. 

On the other hand, the study notes for Sesame and Liliesby a different editor, are rather more critical.  The section about his personality is downright unflattering!  So I guess it wasn't all sunshine for him by the 1920s, even if he still had some devoted followers.  

Ruskin seems to me to be full of contradictions.  He's currently being promoted as some sort of localist agrarian type who saw the dignity in all labor, but going by his famous inaugural Slade lecture, he was a mega-imperialist who believed that English people should only do ennobling tasks (whether manual or otherwise), and should get the people of other lands to do their base mechanical work.  That's one way of avoiding the issue, I suppose.

What's more, his emphasis on allowing young people to choose their own paths in life, by trying different things in a sort of workshop model of education, seems to be completely at odds with his views on women's role.   

Comparing Ruskin with EFL would be interesting, though he wrote such a lot that it's hard to even know where to start.  The first two books that came up in a search are an overview by an evident admirer, called Ruskin on Education, and a criticism of that author's arguments, called Ruskin Revised.  The second author seems to share my impression about the inconsistencies.  He also includes many quotations that are at least as disturbing as the ones that I've come across.  For instance, in some places, Ruskin goes on at great length about the value of books; in others, he disdains literacy for the laboring classes.  It's as though he just said whatever came into his head.  Maybe, in his mind, that went along with being a Romantic.

Why did EFL quote Ruskin so prominently in Educating the Child at Home?  Why did all the fancy girls' schools have their students read Sesame and Lilies?  Why was he the model and inspiration for a school literature series, decades after his death?  I find the whole thing baffling.  

So...I’ll just state upfront that I find Ruskin really, really weird. There exists a lot of controversy over his short marriage (never consummated, he was “disgusted” by his wife’s body) and his odd fixation with prepubescent girls; while these don’t negate his accomplishments, they certainly color his perspective on women’s education. Pearls for Young Ladies is mostly a diatribe insisting young women not be cruel (which is in itself an oddity; why is Ruskin so obsessed with feminine cruelty?). His mother made him memorize entire books of the King James Bible, which he talks about as the foundation of his education (maybe also the reason for his preoccupation with cruel women, but that’s a Freudian digression 😄). 

I didn’t read him at all to be an agrarian type, he actually seems kind of elitist!

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Yes, he must have been remarkably ill-suited to the task of defining ideal womanhood.  And it's not as if these eccentricities were a secret.   So why was he so popular?  Just because he was famous, and said things about reading books?  :huh:  (Then again, looking at certain figures who are highly regarded in educational circles, maybe that is all it takes.  Among homeschoolers, even the "famous" part might be optional.) 

EFL did have a tendency to cite dodgy authorities when she was starting out.  The suggested reading list in Educating the Child at Home includes Spencer, Dewey, Rousseau, and G. Stanley Hall, which is really quite surprising given her later writings.  I don't know if this changed due to criticism from Catholic leaders such as Fr. Mario Barbera, or if it was more that she no longer saw the need as she developed more confidence and a greater reputation for her own work.  

ETA:  In addition to memorizing and reciting large amounts of Scripture, Ruskin was homeschooled and spent a lot of time outdoors (though carefully guarded by his mother, lest he get hurt).  He was never given sweets, and had only a few very basic toys, so he spent a lot of time examining things in his environment.  Just goes to show that a "simple" childhood saturated in great words, nature study, and observation doesn't guarantee much, on its own.  He barely made it through university, and never seems to have become a really systematic thinker.  

Ruskin himself said that, because he was trained to recite from the Bible for so long, he later approached all other books as if they were sacred texts.  This would explain a lot.  In a way, perhaps he was too attentive. 

I'm going to take this as an argument in favor of using a variety of textbooks and other materials, and a variety of means of study!

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11 hours ago, ElizaG said:

ETA:  In addition to memorizing and reciting large amounts of Scripture, Ruskin was homeschooled and spent a lot of time outdoors (though carefully guarded by his mother, lest he get hurt).  He was never given sweets, and had only a few very basic toys, so he spent a lot of time examining things in his environment.  Just goes to show that a "simple" childhood saturated in great words, nature study, and observation doesn't guarantee much, on its own.  He barely made it through university, and never seems to have become a really systematic thinker.  

Ruskin himself said that, because he was trained to recite from the Bible for so long, he later approached all other books as if they were sacred texts.  This would explain a lot.  In a way, perhaps he was too attentive. 

I'm going to take this as an argument in favor of using a variety of textbooks and other materials, and a variety of means of study!

I love this! Did anyone in the EFL threads ever start a list of literature-based textbooks? Beyond Hiawatha, I’m searching for some well-written content for elementary school. We have Hillyer’s CHOW, but I haven’t seen anything similar for science or geography.

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I don't know about using them as textbooks per se, but we like the Fabre nature books.  Also, while we don't have a copy ourselves, the Book of Marvels seems very popular for geography for around age 10 or 11.  

By 7th and 8th grade, they should be reading adult non-fiction.  This was widely recognized by school teachers and librarians in EFL's day.  It's difficult, though, because it's hard to find suitable material that's up to date.  Many recent books have "mature content" or questionable ideologies, and even if they don't, the literary value is often poor.  Sometimes it seems as if newer books for adults are at a lower reading level than older children's books. 

I still haven't dealt well with our non-fiction, both children's and adult's.   It's mostly in boxes.  :blush:  I'm hoping to come up with a solid set of principles to determine what we actually need - who will be using the books?  for what purpose?  in what way?  on what subject?   is it really good for that?  even if so, can we substitute something else we already have? - and if it doesn't fit those principles, then it goes out.  (Probably with a very few exceptions, because there always seem to be exceptions in our homeschool!)

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Some other notes.

1)  [deleted; realized that I already posted it above :blush:]

 

2) I've found a wonderful Victorian book that was written for parents, as well as teachers and governesses.  It's called Principles of Education by Elizabeth Missing Sewell.  She was a traditional homeschooler of the EFL sort, understanding the need to come up with a flexible approach that works for the individual child, the parent, and their situation in life.  Charlotte Mason's PNEU method, helpful as it is in some ways, looks like a sausage factory by comparison.  

The full book is online here.  It's 500 pages long and was originally published in two volumes.  There's also an abridged edition, published by the Mothers' Union in 1914.  It's only 134 pages long, and is supposed to capture the essentials.  

Sewell was a lifelong Anglican who lived during the Oxford Movement, and she wrote a few novels intended to keep girls from becoming Catholic, but she didn't portray the Catholic faith as negatively as did some others such as Charlotte M. Yonge and Dinah Mulock Craik.  I haven't found anything objectionable along those lines in Principles of Education so far. 

 

3) This relates to the question of non-fiction books.  In the 1830s, Sewell and Yonge worked together on a series of compilations of extracts from standard histories.  They published two of these volumes, covering European history up to the 13th century.  I'm not fond of some of the authors they've chosen, but I think the underlying educational idea is a good one. 

This series was intended for girls who had already picked up a basic knowledge of history from a child's textbook.  In order to go deeper, they would have had to either read books and articles on various subjects (which might leave large gaps), or try to plough through someone's multi-volume comprehensive history.  It seems to me that these are more or less the same choices we have today.  An anthology of extracts would get around these problems, while also giving the reader examples of good writing from various authors.  

I think that the Internet, with the abundance of public domain works and recently published articles available, would lend itself to creating an anthology of this sort.   We could copy the excerpts from public domain works and include links to the others, or we could just have a collection of links to everything.  With some effort, we might also be able to do this for other subjects such as science or geography.  I found a Modern Science Reader from the 1910s that was intended as a supplement for high school or college courses; it has essays and articles taken from sources ranging from Popular Science to Marie Curie.  

If you know of anything that's already been published along these lines, please let me know, even if it might not be entirely suitable.  I would prefer not to reinvent the wheel!

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Finally, some new material!  EFL's third book, Beginning the Child's Education, was published in 1925 and entered the public domain this year.  It's written in the form of letters to the mother of a preschooler. 

Some of the material was already published in her newspaper columns, but it's good to have it in one place.  

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It's been a while since I've been on this thread, but I thought I would share a little document I put together outlining EFL's arithmetic suggestions from Educating the Child at Home. I keep this is in my teacher binder to easily refer to what step comes next without having to pull the whole book of the shelf.

EFL arithmetic is probably the part of her program we have implemented most consistently here - I've just started my fourth child with it. So far, I am quite happy with the results. The whole sequence has taken us roughly two years, and I usually start somewhere around age 6. The only thing I add to EFL's suggestions for those years is some work on place value. When my kids finish EFL's sequence, I have them start some Math Mammoth worktexts from the light blue series for a year or two, eventually feeding into the MM 5th grade level materials. 

EFL Arithmetic Sequence - Google Docs.pdf

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Posted (edited)

Thank you, LostCove; it's very helpful to have it written out like that!   In the past, I wasn't able to stay focused on EFL arithmetic for more than a few months at a time, and we ended up drifting back to workbooks as our main approach.  But I hope to give it another try, maybe starting soon.  

Has this book been posted before?  I've only glanced through it, but the author has some distinct opinions on both discipline and academics.  It would be interesting to compare her ideas and influences with EFL's.

Thoughts on Domestic Education:  The Result of Experience, By A Mother.  (Boston: Carter & Hendee, 1829)

"A Mother" was a pseudonym of Maria Elizabeth Budden (c. 1780-1832).  She was a British mother of six, and also wrote and translated numerous other books, but Wikipedia says that little is known about her life.  

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On 2/7/2021 at 8:13 PM, ElizaG said:

It wasn’t the instructional method itself that was the problem.  We weren’t even doing much of that from ages 1-3.  It’s just that there wasn’t much advice in Montessori sources about discipline in the early years, or at least none that made sense to me.  At the time, I read everything I could find, both from MM and various AMI-trained infant/toddler specialists.  

I find this to be an issue as well. Most Montessori educators like the positive discipline approach (which if you read all the stuff it is all over the place sometimes). I think pure Montessori does have Grace and Courtesy lessons. This is where you give specific lessons to show a child exactly how to behave in different scenarios.  Although any talks I've heard on the subject of actual discipline involved very little quotes from Dr. Montessori herself.

Grace and Courtesy lessons are not as "advertised" when you google Montessori because well it doesn't involve anything but an adult and a child. 

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