Monday, March 29, 2010

The Well Educated Mind - Book 10, 52 in 52

I FINALLY finished!! YEAH!!

The Well Educated Mind by Bauer is designed to help an older student or adult to educate themselves in the classical tradition through the reading of classics. The book starts by laying out 4 steps.
  1. Set aside time 4 days a week.
  2. Practice reading at a pace that allows you to absorb the material.
  3. Keep a journal of your reading.
  4. Take all the little pieces and put them together for a better understanding.

The remainder of the book is divided into 5 literary types. For each time there is an overview of the history of that type, questions and steps to study the book at different levels (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) of understanding, and a list of books in chronological order to start reading.

I liked the journal set up that she proposes of writing summaries, taking notes and jotting down quotations that strike you, and writing thoughts/reactions in a different color is very well thought out. I found it useful to see how a reading journal could be set up, but I don't expect to follow the recommendations exactly. Instead I plan to tailor it more to my own needs.

For me, a lot of the material was a bit overboard. Reading the history of the different types of literature was excruciatingly tedious and helped me remember why I always passionately hated literary criticism and English class in general. The questions under each literary type seemed a bit limited to me, and I prefer to use the Socratic list of questions from Teaching the Classics for myself instead. My third disagreement is one with sticking with one type of literature and progressing through it in a chronological fashion. I personally would prefer more variety and do not plan to be bound by a timeline when choosing what classic to tackle next.

I guess my take away is that like The Well Trained Mind, The Well Educated Mind provides one method of achieving a classical education by reading through the classics. For some, following the lists and questions strictly will be an excellent fit. Others will need to adapt it more to their own personalities or pick and choose from the ideas. Whether I use the suggestions in our homeschool when my oldest reaches that point remains to be seen. I'll have to make a judgement on whether or not the material is a good fit for her just as I would for any other text.

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