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


Lisa said...

Yikes, that DOES seem like a lot of work! I can honestly say I've never done that - ever, with any book. But, I'm willing to try. Maybe it would have served me well with Austen. There's still time!

Sherry said...

I still don't know about writing in the books. I may be willing to do all the reading, re-reading, and journaling, but I can't commit to vandalism!! LOL!!

Niffercoo said...

Lisa, Mrs. Bauer does say that you don't need to go through this process for every book. She says some books you won't be interested in taking to a deeper level. And from what I gathered in the first chapter of How to Read a Book, the books that would lend themselves to this sort of reading would be the ones that you are looking to gain understanding from. More on that in my posts about HTRAB.

Sherry, I tried marking up my HTRAB last night with Chapter 1. It was REALLY hard at first, but I found it to be sort of fun! Of course, now I have to buy a new copy of it when I'm ready for the kids to read it, but maybe I'll find it on the bargain book table again! Or at Goodwill? :)

Abbey suggested that I really give marking in my books a try with my paperback of Twilight! But my mother has it right now so she can start the Saga, so that will have to wait for the movie prep!