Sunday, August 31, 2008

One step closer!

I have finished the necessary chapters of Well-Educated Mind. It took me a little longer than I had planned because my 12 year old son had a medical emergency that has required my time and mental energy. I read the first 5 chapters, which include the introduction and preparation work, plus the detailed chapter on reading novels. The remaining chapters give details in reading the other genres, so I am going to skip those for now.

I will begin by admitting to being very overwhelmed when I began to see what this reading program was going to require from me. I have never been confident about reading and analyzing literature! To find out that I have to do 3 levels of reading in just one book nearly set me off my project. But I was patient, and continued to get deeper into the details. I soon saw that it wasn't as complicated as I had envisioned, though it will require some brain work on my part! But that's sort of the whole point! ;)

Now, let me stop right here and explain the one area that gives me the most pause: Susan Wise Bauer wants me to WRITE in my books!! She wants me to underline things, turn down corners (GASP!), and generally mark up my books?! She might as well tell me I should name my next child Renesmee!! (I'm just kidding... those of you who know me IRL know that I actually think that name is quite charming!) But I'm going to try give it a shot (the writing in books part, not the baby name part - I'm not quite that obsessed). I had already purchased paperback copies of Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights when a friend of mine gave me beautiful hardback copies that look like they are 100 years old even though they probably aren't! So, I can mark up my boring old paperbacks and still have the beautiful hardbacks that are intact!

There are too many details in the reading plan in Well-Educated Mind to get into now, but here is the general process:
  1. The first level involves just getting through the book. Make notes of the parts that are difficult, interesting, or important (by turning down corners, using a sticky note). Write a brief summary at the end of each chapter, this is not the time for details. Jot down questions, reflections, connections in your journal in a different ink color. When you are finished with the book, make an informal outline from your summaries, then give the book your own title and subtitle that tells what the book does. (This last part really intimidates me)
  2. In lieu of reading the entire book a 2nd time, just go back to those difficult sections and see if they make sense now that you've finished the story. Mrs. Bauer lists questions to consider for each genre, and when you answer each question you need include a quote from the book to make sure you're staying focused on the book.
  3. The third stage requires the use of a partner who will be reading with you. There is another set of questions for each genre, and those are the basis of your discussions (in person or via email). The idea is not to get the 'right' answers, but to THINK about what you have read.
It sounds really overwhelming doesn't it? It did to me! But then I realized something. I've been DOING this already. I've been DOING it this very month --- with Breaking Dawn!!! Granted, it's not Pride and Prejudice or something as equally complicated, but it's still the same process! So I CAN do it! And you can, too! We'll do it together!

My next step will be to read How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. Mrs. Bauer quoted this book a number of times in the Well-Educated Mind, plus I had already bought it for the children to study during their high school years. I am very curious about how Mr. Adler's recommendations compare to Mrs. Bauer's! Surely he wouldn't want me to WRITE in a book, would he? LOL

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Getting Ready!

I have decided to prepare myself for this adventure in literature by reading The Well-Educated Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer. I am hoping this book will serve as a guide for me as I am attempting to read this new level of challenging literature.

I remember being very frustrated in school when I was asked to infer things from reading or talk about symbolism or other fancy terms that I didn't really grasp. As I've been contemplating the reading that I'm about to tackle, I was afraid that I would end up feeling that same frustration as before. I have How to Read a Book, and I do intend to read that book as well during this process. However, I thought that the Well-Educated Mind might be a better starting point. Here is a description of The Well-Educated Mind from the publisher's website:

The Well-Educated Mind

Using the techniques and systems of classical education, this new guide will give you greater pleasure in what you read, and greater understanding of it. With her thought-provoking questions on each genre and her extremely useful annotated lists of what to read and how to begin on each of the genres covered, Susan Wise Bauer offers us the tools to reclaim our love of reading and to further our own education in meaningful ways.

It appears that there is also a website to accompany the book! I'll be checking that out in the days to come!

I am close to deciding on the first book I'm going to read. Right now, it's between Pride & Prejudice and Wuthering Heights!!