Methods of Instruction: Home or Institutional?

Sometime in April I blogged about homeschooling and I said that as we gain experience in our homeschools, “We learn to homeschool proactively rather than reactively- what the public school does or does not do no longer has any bearing on why we homeschool or even how we homeschool. After all, the menu at the local hospital cafeteria has no bearing on what or how we cook for our family meals, because the two institutions of hospital cafeteria and family mealtime have little in common in regard to goals, mission, or circumstances.
I addressed this more fully in a later post called ‘Institutional Homeschooling.’ I said it did not make much sense to take the tools and methods designed to accommodate several hundred people each day and try to use them at home to cook for a family of four (well, my family has nine people, but you get the idea). “Schools, both public and private, have to do some tasks that homeschoolers do not. Schools, the institutional types, must bring a dissimilar group of children together more or less in lockstep through a set amount of material in a limited number of hours in a limited number of days within a single school year- with a student/teacher ratio of 20:1. In order to accomplish this as best they can and make the most efficient use of a teacher’s time, they developed some tools to streamline the process. These tools are things like text books, multiple choice and fill in the blank tests, and so forth.”

There are other differences, of course, but this brings us up to the starting point of this post. I’ve been reading a book called The History of Modern Elementary Education by Samuel Chester Parker. It was published in 1912. It’s been used as a textbook for teacher trainees. I believe I’ve mentioned that I come from a long line of educators? I also come from a long line of packrats.

Samuel Chester Parker agrees with me that the tools that function well in a homeschool environment are not going to be the same tools that function well in a public school setting.
He says “…there was little expansion of the elementary curriculum during the three hundred years from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the end of the eighteenth. Moreover, there was little departure from the methods of instruction which had been copied from the home, where with little or no special equipment each child was taught as an individual. There was little appreciation of the fact that since children were assembled in school in groups it was possible to use a group method that would secure better results than the individual method. Practically no one dreamed of the possibility of an elaborate special technique of instruction in which teachers should be trained. All that a teacher was supposed to need was an elementary knowledge of school subjects and the ability to make children behave. Nor was there any appreciation of the vast economy and improvement that would result from very slight changes in the equipment and arrangement of the schoolroom.” (emphasis mine)

Parker cites two exceptions ‘to this general attitude of complaisant ignorance,’ the “schools of the Brethren of the Christian Schools in France and the monitorial schools of Lancaster and Bell in England and America”. Both of these exceptions centered on their innovations in classroom management.
Prior to the improved classroom management techniques Parker cites as well as improvements in equipment (like the blackboard), Parker says that “two thirds of the time in schools was wasted through poor equipment and methods.” The introduction of slates relieved teachers from the tiresome and time consuming duty of having to make pens for the students, and seems to have made possible several breakthroughs in instructional methods, as one Henry Barnard, author ofAmerican Educational Biography, said that it was on a new blackboard that he ‘first witnessed the process of analytical and inductive teaching.’

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