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Deliberate Reading

March 10, 2011

Question: I read a lot but I haven’t really tackled any classics or more challenging reading in years because I don’t seem to have the mental energy. Your reading choices seem both thoughtful and challenging. How do you decide what to read?

I don’t pretend to have a lot of mental energy these days myself!  I don’t get to spend a lot of time reading, and having a baby has made me feel like a bit of a mush-brain, but lately I’ve really felt a desire to get going on some self-education goals again.  I must be a slow mover though, it’s March already and I’ve finished a total of two, yes, two, books in 2011.

I posted a few years back about my plans for myself and many of my thoughts now are the same as they were back then.  Back when A was in first grade and studying ancient history, I was constantly amazed at how much I was learning along with him.  I became acutely aware of how much I did not know, about world history in particular.

I really love history and The Well-Trained Mind, which is my favorite homeschooling book of all time (as I’m sure I mention frequently), recommends studying world history in chronological order, repeating every four years, and also recommends a study of world literature tied to the history cycle.  I had originally set a goal to read the high school level history and literature selections myself while I read the grammar stage literature to the boys as we studied ancient history, but that plan fizzled out.  Quickly.  I hadn’t had to read anything that challenging in years and convinced myself that I just wasn’t up for it.

The next year, I decided to work my way through the logic stage (grades 5-8) reading list instead while we studied the Middle Ages together.  I did really well with that.  So many works on the 6th-grade list were ones I’d never encountered before, and I really enjoyed Beowulf especially.  I also gave up trying to read history books from the adult section of the library and concentrated on getting a good overview of history with the boys from the library’s juvenile non-fiction collection instead.  For one thing it’s faster and in doing so, I would get inspired to read more in depth on certain topics or people, and I felt able to handle more “grown-up” books because I had a foundational knowledge of the underlying time period.

For example, I really loved our study of the American Revolution last year.  I had actually read 1776 previously and loved it, but still felt put off by the length of McCullough’s John Adams even though everyone I knew raved about it.  After a month of reading about every facet of the Revolution with the boys, I finally felt ready to tackle John Adams on my own and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I also think I got more out of it because I didn’t just pick it up out of the blue, but tied it into my growing knowledge of the early days of our country.

Other examples of grown-up reads I’ve enjoyed:

  • 1066–The Year of the Conquest by David Howarth, read after studying the Battle of Hastings
  • Most Wise and Valiant Ladies–A book of biographies about six medieval women including Eleanor of Aquitaine and Joan of Arc
  • Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • A biography of George Washington
  • Frank Haskell’s account of the battle of Gettysburg

Hmmm, those are all nonfiction.  I enjoy fiction too and we’re trying to catch up on children’s classics around here currently.  Lest you think that I never read fluff, or pick up a book on a whim or just for fun, let me assure you I do!   Of course my favorite mystery series at the moment is Brother Cadfael, which I discovered after studying medieval history!  I have a much easier time reading fiction when the boys are awake and running about.  It’s much harder to get into a nonfiction history book or any book that really makes me think unless the house is quiet.  But I feel strongly about continuing to educate myself and for the most part, I am quite deliberate about what books I choose to read.

I have quite a bit to say about why I feel so strongly about self-education, but it’s late so I will save that for another post.

In the meantime, does anyone have any favorite World War II reads?  I’m looking for recommendations…

(and if you have any more questions for me, just ask!)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2011 6:12 pm

    The book that came to mind for WWII was the Guernsey Literary Potato Pie Society. You may have already read it since just about everyone did when it came out about 2 years ago. It is fiction and a very light read but still fun. I just can’t bring myself to read non-fiction much. Reading at all has been difficult lately. I need to really make more of an effort to read more than just what I read with the kids. But then if I just reading all these great books that I never read as a kid I feel like I am doing pretty good.

  2. Aunt R permalink
    March 14, 2011 8:13 pm

    Hey, I finally decided to comment! I check in quite frequently and am always so amazed at what you do and accomplish. Congratulations to the boys for all their good work and accomplishments! I have a lot of WWII stories that I like including children’s books: Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan (I read this when I was young.) Adult books: The Children of the Promise series by Dean Hughes, and I recently read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for book club. (This was a fat novel and a little unusual to get into, but the writing was excellent and filled with amazing descriptions. It had more swearing than I like, but was very good. The father in the book played the accordian.)

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