Friday, February 20, 2009


For this months "in between" post, I'm posing the question:

Why did you choose to read the classics?

For me, it started about 2 years ago. I had always wanted a big library full of classics in my home, so that we would always have something good around to read. But when the time came that I could actually start to build that library. I started to see how many of the classics I hadn't read. In fact, if we are counting what are considered "Children's Novels" then I've read quite a few (like, The Black Stallion, Anne of Green Gables, Peter and Wendy, A Little Princess, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia, Robin Hood, etc.) But the real classics, the adult ones, I had read very few. And quite frankly, I felt stupid.

I'd heard people talk about Last of the Mohicans a thousand times, but I'd never read it. I'd seen the movie the Count of Monte Cristo, but never read the book (I have now read it, and it's NOTHING like the movies) So as I started collecting, I started reading.

About 9 months into my library building, some things happened and my hubby and I made the decision to home school our children. As I looked through curriculums, and read about the best ways to home school. One thing stuck out as universal in all the theories: Read the classics! "When your kids need to read- have them read a classic". "When you read to your children-read them classics." " Let your children catch you reading the classics". "If all you have around is classics, that's what your children will read." "Classics will help teach, proper grammar, vocabulary, history, moral lessons, political ideals, etc."

So that convinced me. Classics had to be a big part of our house. And I must admit that since I've started, I've never regretted it. Most modern books don't even sound interesting to me anymore.

So how about you? Why are you a part of the book club?


Mrs. Mordecai said...

When I was in eighth grade, I don't really remember why, but I started collecting classics. When I had a few extra dollars, I'd add a book to my library. I started devouring classics and really enjoyed most of them. And if I didn't--well, I still got the sense of accomplishment that I had read something worthwhile. Reading classics just seems to legitimize reading for me, since it seems like a better use of my time than reading "fluff". I guess it's no surprise that I ended up studying English in college.

Amy said...

I have always enjoyed reading, but I didn't start focusing on the classics until about a year ago. Our homeschool method is based around reading the classics, so we are reading children's classics to our kids and I am reading youth and adult classics on my own to try to catch up on all the great books I missed in my own education.

I love classics, and always learn good things from them. However, I have a hard time sticking with them. Because they usually don't move at a very fast pace, I have a tendancy to get side tracked by something more urgent and then I don't read the book for a couple of weeks. That is why I love book clubs! It helps motivate me and remind me to keep up with reading the classics. I don't feel pressured to read, but it just helps keep it in the front of my mind because I know that I will want to be able to discuss the book.

Anonymous said...

My story is similar to ShimmyMom's and Amy's. When my son was born, I knew I wanted to homeschool him. I began researching homeschooling methodologies and was immediately drawn to the writings of Ruth Beechik and Charlotte Mason. AND, I loved the catalogs from the Classical Homeschooling folks because it was full of books!

For the first 10 years of my son's life, I read the Bible, children's books to my son or books about parenting/education. I did manage to squeeze in a re-read of Jane Eyre and my first reading of Anna Karenina but that was about 10 years!!

Well you know as well as I do that all those great books about education that I was reading, as well as books about spiritual growth that I was reading, taught the difficult truth that I can not lead my children where I have not been myself.

This last summer, I asked the children, What do you want to learn this year? That's what we will focus our time on. My point in asking the question was to stimulate them. But also, to participate and have them see ME learning something new, see me struggling and discussing and overcoming. I want to prepare myself to walk beside them and be a model for them of a life-long learner.

Well, one of the things I wanted to do was read the classics but I hadn't even made a plan of how to approach that when I saw Mrs. Brooke's invitation on the Thomas Jefferson Education forum. And the timing was too perfect to pass up.

Like Amy, I need the date with others to keep me reading...Moby Dick for example! I might have set Melville aside already were it not for wanting to have something to say in our discussion AND wanting to have a foundation for understanding your comments.

Sharon in KY

Anonymous said...

And I forgot to mention, when I tried to research reading classics throughout history, I was overwhelmed by all I haven't read. As a recovering perfectionist, I still struggle with not doing ALL of something.

ShimmyMom, I cannot express to you how grateful I am that you are willing, and able, to wade through all that's out there and choose some and leave others and not go crazy over it.

One more thing, the suspense each month - What are the choices going to be? - is FUN!

Sharon in KY

Mrs. Mordecai said...

Sharon, I have to agree with you that if it weren't for the book club, I would never finish Moby Dick—it keeps putting me to sleep! It's definitely slow going for me at the moment, but I will be glad to have read it in the end.

Mr. Mordecai said...

With the recent commentary regarding how much time to focus on ancient classics, I thought it would be a good idea to offer my thoughts here as well.

My interest in the classics comes from a few things. First, as Mrs. Mordecai mentioned, they aren't "fluff." When you look at the classics, they are frequently books that had an actual impact on society. Many point out complex and difficult aspects of life in simple and elegant ways. Others were frequently controversial and touched on aspects of society that were being scrutinized heavily. Because of that, I find them useful to read because of the perspective they give.

The second reason I enjoy reading the classics is because some of them continually crop up as allusions in current literature, culture, etc. It's nearly impossible, for example, to avoid allusions to A Christmas Carol, even when it isn't Christmas time. References to Scrooge show up all the time. I figure its better to have read the books and understand the context fully.

That said -- I find very little merit in reading books just to say I've read them. I'd prefer to focus on books that, after having read them, give me a better understanding of the world (and people) around me.

So, for example, when considering ancient (or near ancient) writings, I think some of the most useful (and interesting) things we could read would be the Qur'an (~610AD), or other similar writings. Although they are ancient writings, they (unlike many of the others) are still very much alive and affect daily events.

And, of course, the third reason I read classics is because Mrs. Mordecai is an avid reader and it makes me happy to be able to share things with her.