‘The study of great books allows the past to speak for itself, combining history, creative writing, philosophy, politics, and ethics into a seamless whole. The goal…is a greater understanding of our own civilization, country, and place in time, stemming from an understanding of what has come before us…The goal of classical education is not an exhaustive exploration of great literature. The student with a well-trained mind continues to read, think, and analyze long after classes have ended.’
Susan Wise Bauer, pg. 473
We are in the process of wrapping up this year’s ancient history studies, and I have learned as much or more about this period of history as my teen. What have I learned?
- Reading great books is difficult, but not impossible. At minimum, it takes a commitment to gain something from what you’re reading, even if that commitment is not accompanied by genuine interest.
- Names like Plato and Homer shouldn’t intimidate you; learning about them before reading their books allows you to be more comfortable with what you are reading.
- Tools like Sparknotes and books like An Invitation to the Classics (an invaluable resource, giving brief but easily understandable information on authors and describing their books in context) can be marvelous helps, but they will never fully convey the emotion of the author.
- Living books don’t need accompanying textbooks to “fill in blanks;” by studying people in the context of their surroundings, your child can fill in any blanks regarding events, customs, and culture.
- You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. And a mule won’t even allow itself to be lead. Enough said.
One last thing I’ve learned. Audiobooks are my new BFF. So, having almost completed this year’s work, I’ve begun to think about reading plans for next year for all three kids, but primarily for the oldest. I’m sure this is a function of what I’m least comfortable laying out. Last year, I spent most of the summer preparing a syllabus of sorts to help her get accustomed to reading through one. Though a number of my homeschooling friends have benefited from it, I can safely say that she would have been just as contented to figure it out as she goes. This is one of many differences in our personalities: I plan ahead, but my oldest gets a lot done on last-minute adrenalin. God is gracious enough that only a few of my hairs have turned grey (smile).
So, in spite of a few horse and mule days, this is our proposed read-aloud/ together list for high school, 2010-2011:
Virgil’s Aeneid (audiobook)
The City of God (audiobook)
How the Irish Saved Civilization
The Song of Roland
The Magna Carta (?)
Dante’ Inferno (audiobook)
Somewhere along the way, we will also spend some time with Japanese haiku, and cover via the Compact Book of World Religions Islamic beliefs. Ambitious? You bet. I’m still determining what will make the final list, and of course, the list on paper may or may not match what we actually get done. As I embrace this particular passage of Ms. Bauer’s, I am comfortable that even if we don’t cover all the books in the curriculum, we will work to understand the period and how it relates to where we are.
We also have “free” reading. In our home, these are books that don’t have any follow-up assignments attached to them, nor is the reading graded in any way; the children read them to me. They are my selections for them, but they are intended to be both educational and entertaining. Free reading also gives us the opportunity to add in books that are written from a different perspective than Western Hemisphere and European. Again, this is a first cut, and subject to change several times before it’s put into action (and a few times afterward!)
The Sumarai by Shusako Endo
Ashaki, African Princess by Patricia Weaver
The Life of Alexander the Great by Plutarch (audiobook)
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (audiobook)
My younger two will be much easier to plan for, thankfully. We’ve hit a sweet spot where we have the publishers that work for us, and all we have to do is pass down what we’ve bought already and/or make minimal purchases to complement something that’s been consumed . I’m pretty sure that our son will use selections from Sonlight’s History of God’s Kingdom. Interestingly enough, several of the books are in my possession already from the teen’s studies this year, so there’s my head start on purchases.
Speaking of a head start, I shared previously that I’d probably go with Sonlight’s 2nd grade readers for the youngest. In comparing our bookshelves to the newest catalog, I found these:
I was happy to not have to spend as much on books. In fact, from a cursory look at next year, it looks like I will only have to buy Apologia’s chemistry text, Horizons Math, and Teaching Textbooks Geometry! Now of course, these three resources will run me upwards of $200, and that’s the not-so-good news. Anyway, I do love that a plan is coming together.