"A Thomas Jefferson Education was my summer read last year and it triggered great interest on my part; however, I lapsed into habit and tried to discuss Huckleberry Finn and Red Badge of Courage with my 8th grader after I had read only the Cliff Notes. Didn't go so well. Pretty agonizing really.
Then I went to Adam Andrew's Teaching the Classics seminar in the spring. I coordinated him coming to our area. He was fantastic and I felt empowered! Since then, we tackled some short works together, like the myth of Cupid & Psyche. That led me to C.S. Lewis's retelling of the myth entitled Till We Have Faces Very thought-provoking. Then a teenage homeschooler told me she'd read Pride & Prejudice six times, so I devoured it. Loved it! I just finished Oscar Wilde's The Portrait of Dorian Gray I couldn't put it down. A local history note recommended a history classic for us-- The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, about D-Day. I'd read a chapter and then I'd find it in my son's room. We good-naturedly swiped it from one another until he finished it first with me shortly behind. Dad enjoyed our passionate discussions of it, and together we spit out a one-page book critique with no effort.
Another good read that I greatly enjoyed discussing with my son this past year was the first two books in the Earthsea series by Ursula LeGuin. About a week after I read her books, I spontaneously wrote an essay about the thoughts running through my head, for I had discovered that she was a Taoist, and as I'm a Christian I felt that the writing resolved my quandries. As Van deMille puts it, I felt it was in need of mending in my brain. I purposely wrote a first draft and then polished it using the IEW Dress-ups and Sentence Openers. My final draft was much better. I asked my son to read it and tell me what he thought. He got very excited about it and came up with some ideas of his own. The concepts of New Age versus Christianity were some that I had often broached in the past but drew indifferent and defensive responses.
I am fighting with him now over another classic that I picked up at the library by OrwellAnimal Farm Maybe I'll tackle something else while he finishes that--it didn't look very long. I vaguely remember Orwell's 1984maybe that one.
I have to say that this is contagious. What I mean is that he sees me reading a classic; I talk quite naturally about how much I'm enjoying it; he starts reading it; we fight over who gets it; we share our ideas; sometimes we write about it; and we move on. We are both voracious readers, but I had never read the classics since long ago in high school and college, and since then mostly nonfiction related to theology and homeschooling. I am enjoying them wholeheartedly. They are very readable, and I can tell my vocabulary is expanding!"
We have been using Teaching the Classics with our 10th grader for literature. We began by watching the DVD's together and worked on the material as Adam presents it. But before moving to each new section, we would practice what we learned on other children's books. He and I would both read them and make notes. As we progressed through each lesson, we would do what Adam assigned and then apply that particular lesson on each of the other children's books we read. It was fun, interesting, and enlightening.
We've enjoyed all parts of the learning process, but looking back on that first semester I see that our best learning and life application comes from the questions in the Socratic list. It is amazing what I learned from those children's books! It's even more amazing what I learned from my son! Our first step to a longer book was Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. Over the Christmas break he is finishing The Lonesome Gods, by Louis L'Amour and reading Sir Gawain the Green Knight from the Middle Ages. I kept his writing assignments during the first semester separate from literature to make it easier to keep moving. We did begin The Elegant Essay about half way through the semester and I think that he will be loaded with much to write about after having used the strategies taught by Adam while reading a book. I highly recommend Teaching the Classics for high school!