Sunday, September 06, 2009

Personal reading challenge

There was a time when I considered myself a reader. I was one of those bookworm kids and I continued to read a lot as an adult. Somewhere after becoming a mother, personal reading fell off the daily agenda. Homeschooling didn't really help; I read (both past and present tense) a lot, but it's not really the personal reading that I crave.

Then I read Susan Wise Bauer's essay "Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read a Book" in "The Classical Teacher," a magazine/catalog put out by Memoria Press. That did not help me feel any better about the lack of reading in my life.

I've read and used some of Mrs. Bauer's books. I can't say I run a classical homeschool though I use some of the recommendations I've found in A Well-Trained Mind. I disagree with some of her philosophy - which means I agree with some of it. Like this:

In order to embark on the project of classical education— not just for our children, but also for ourselves—we have to rediscover a much older way of thinking. For us to really enter into the project of classical education, we have to change our perspective from “I could be educated if I could go through school again" or “I could be educated if I had time to enroll in a graduate program" to “I can educate myself." We have to think about how we will enter into classical education along with our children.

In order to get educated, we do not have to go to graduate school. We have to read, take notes on what we read, and discuss ideas with our friends.

The article has much more to it; there is practical advice on how to read (as in, to get a lot out of a book), and how to get over the feeling that there is simply not enough time to read. There are no recommended booklists; she covered that in her book A Well-Educated Mind, and there are plenty of other places to find good books to read.

Regarding "there's not enough time to read," she says:

The biggest difference between electronic media and books is the way in which television and the internet can insinuate themselves into every spare minute. I have never once sat down to read Plato, lost myself in it, and looked up and found that two hours have passed. But there have been a lot of times when I've just sat down to look at email ... and have suddenly discovered that a huge amount of valuable time has slipped away from me.

I read this article at the end of July, so for August I set myself the goal of spending an hour a day reading. Real books - the internet and magazines don't count. Homeschooling books and curriculum don't count either.

The first week of August was pretty easy for me; one child was away at camp and one was at a daycamp for 5 hours each day. But that first easy week reminded me of how much I missed reading, so it was a little easier to keep up after the camp week was over. I probably missed my goal a few days here and there, but overall I found or made the time. I read quite a few books of my own, and previewed a few for the kids. I read parts of some books that have been kicking around for ages, only to find they really weren't worth finishing after all.

During that month, the house wasn't any messier than usual, the kids and husband didn't go hungry, and I was probably more content and relaxed than normal because I was reading again. Actually, my kids probably stepped up to help more than before, because I was asking them to - so I would have more time to read.

Some mothers I tried to talk to about this were dubious. They couldn't get past the "stop washing dishes" part. Some are just in the wrong season of life for this right now. It's true that I don't have babies and toddlers who demand constant attention; I wouldn't be typing this up right now if I did.

What I do have, though, are two young people who need to see, in a concrete way, that reading is valued in our house. I can talk to them all I want about the importance of reading good books but at what point do they look at me and say "if it's so important, why aren't you doing it too?" I might think I don't have to worry about that; they are good and enthusiastic readers. Well, that's today. What about tomorrow?

Someone might say I'm justifying my own selfishness because I simply want to read. (Actually someone did say that.) I am not always reading Plato and Aristotle and Homer, it's true.

But, that is a challenge for another month. August was my month to get started. I haven't decided on any changes for September. It's enough for me right now just to be reading again.


Sandy said...

When I became a mother, a lot of things "fell off the daily agenda", reading being one of them. I need to get back to that. Reading fills a place in me that nothing else seems to. Thanks for the nudge.

Kerri said...

I have been reading that book as well, and it really excites me! I have been thinking along the same lines as well, do my children see in me a continuing desire to educate myself? Do I want them to treat their self education as I treat my own? I have also been discouraged at my lack of being able to get beyond the elementary phases of any given topic. Susan Wise Bauer's book has given me the tools, I think, to go further in my reading and also to remember what I have read (through the journaling,) my lack of recall has gotten discouraging. :(
I'm actually up tonight with insomnia because it has gotten me excited. I'm thinking of starting with Lorna Doone, a book I've always wanted to break into, and tried a couple times, but always get bogged down.
What are you reading?