Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday with Words: Educating the Child at Home

I was tipped off about Educating the Child at Home by Ella Frances Lynch as I was trolling the Well Trained Mind boards.  Free, old google book about education - I love it!

Although published in 1914, this book deals with many of the same issues we discuss today (overcrowding, testing, child's needs not getting met, etc.)   The more I read older books about education the more I realize that there aren't that many "modern" problems - these issues have been with us all along.  Her arguments for teaching from home sound VERY familiar.  She also doesn't pull any punches - this is how she describes the rise of schooling:
It is, after all, nothing but a wholly artificial institution which is an outgrowth of the parents' shirking of their highest duty to unload it upon paid substitutes. 
YIKES!  Tell us what you really think?

She is also adamant that character education is first.

Teach these essentials: How to work; that "Heaven is not reached at a single bound"; that habits early formed determine character and destiny; that "genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains"; that "He that ruleth his own spirit is greater than he that taketh a city"; that tomorrow will soon be yesterday; that we must make our opportunities, not wait for them; that all work is ennobling, idleness unfruitful, degrading, abhorrent to Go and man. 
At what age then, should these essentials be acquired?  They should unquestionably be mastered before the age of ten.  (emphasis mine)

She further encourages us that

Her book discusses the issue of the day, in 1914, the difference between rural country schools and the now developing city schools.  She is an advocate for this aspect of "country schooling"
Promotions were not scheduled simply for year-ends, but came on whatever day the ambitious student proved himself ready to do the work of the next higher class.  
What if I did that at home?  She also explains that
Subjects are taught at the wrong time - fed on definitions and mathematics during the most imaginative early years, then later on with poetry just when the reasoning powers manifest themselves and demand different food.   Mathematics are taught as memory subjects, and literary masterpieces for analysis.   
Her discussion of poetry has been helpful to me.  I will probably have to post what I am learning about poetry from these older books later.

She is also an advocate for less is more, as she says:

Undoubtedly, by teaching four instead of eight subjects a day, we obtain such desirable results as: thoroughness, continuous thinking, and a knowledge of what is really essential.

I am not sure what to think of this.  Mason recommends short varied lessons through this age group because we can really only focus for about 20 minutes at a time.  In another article she discusses combining Bible, Latin and English together as one subject - an interesting thought.

Here is what really gets me - remember 1914

"The course of study is not planned with a view to the different stages of mental development."  in the effort to teach young children what ought to be reserved for an older age, subjects that call for reasoning-power and judgement, and therefore belong to the high school or later period have worked their way downward, step by step, until they permeate even the primary grades . . . 
On the other hand, the teaching of memory subjects, such as the languages, is long deferred, even to the high-school years.  Here again the remedy may be had for the choosing.  Up to the age of ten the child is concerned chiefly with recording impressions, observing, forming habits, getting himself adjusted to a world quite new to him, storing up information that in later years will be reviewed in the light of reason.  It is the seed-time, not the time of fruit-bearing.  (emphasis mine)
She emphasizes ten as the age of change.  My oldest is just now ten and I know I have not always done right by the stage he was in.  God will redeem but I want to do it differently with my younger ones.

Finally here is her set of questions for including materials in your curriculum.

Here are a few more that I just love - she is very quotable. 

I thought this was hilarious (I am the mom of 3 boys): 

And finally some encouragement as you wrap up this year and head to the next: 

Honestly, I am most inspired by her vision to change schooling.  Original thinking and great ideas that meet the real needs of kids.  I didn't touch on that here. So much in these few pages.

See what others are reading at Ladydusk


  1. That sounds like a book I need to get my hands on! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Impressive. Thanks for the link to the public domain book. It does look worth reading.

  3. It truly is a fascinating read. She started the Teacher-Mother "league" to encourage moms and provide support for them to keep their child at home until they were at least 10. I honestly only scratched the surface of her thoughts and insights. She was passionate!

  4. Part poet, part pirate, part pig...mmm. Probably spot on for 3 out of 4 of my boys, but they are loveable...most of the time.