January is the best time to curl up with a good book and a cup of hot cocoa. I’m using these cold winter nights to read the Challenge II literature because my oldest will be reading those books next year. I read the Challenge literature ahead of time so that I will be ready to talk about the books as soon as my kids are finished reading. Up until Challenge I, I could read all the literature during the summer months, but there is a lot of reading in the upper Challenges, and the books are so wonderful I want to take my time and ponder their ideas. If you want to see what is coming up for your students, just check CC Catalog. If your children are still a long way from Challenge, you can start now and enjoy savoring the books. You can always re-read the book when the time gets near, or consult a summary if you forget the characters’ names or details. The Bronze Bow, The Hiding Place, and Carry On, Mr. Bowditch are great winter reading choices from the early Challenges. Is it snowing? Read Call of the Wild.
I’m reading Pride and Prejudice now, and I’m really enjoying the contrast of the British literature to the American literature of Challenge I. American literature deals with some hard issues such as slavery and the different (often clashing) definitions of freedom, so I’m happily enjoying some frivolities of English country life. I just had a visit with the wealthy Lady Catherine. She asked Elizabeth, the main character, about her education, “Do you play and sing, Miss Bennet?” “Do you draw?” Although I’m not especially fond of this overbearing lady, I wholeheartedly agree that these are important things in anyone’s education. My children all play and sing and draw. I guess Lady Catherine and I would agree that these are the things that make one civilized. Or that the practice of them teaches perseverance. Or that they exercise a slightly different part of the brain. Or that it helps one learn to communicate ideas to others through different mediums.
The next thing Lady Catherine asks gives me another chuckle. Upon discovering that they had no governess, Lady Catherine might have choked on her petit four as she replies, “No governess! How was that possible?…—I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.” Elizabeth explained that had not been the case. She said, “We were always encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary.”
I had not expected to find such good homeschooling advice in Pride and Prejudice, but there it was. Depend on the masters—the writers of the classics—for a great education. Moderns disagree. I was sad to hear recently that the new Common Core Standards will reduce the reading of classics in U.S. public schools. But Classical Conversations students will hear from the masters through many classics. They’ll hear from Jane Austen, Jack London, Ernest Hemmingway, William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, and Francis Schaeffer, just to name a few.
I sometimes do feel like a slave, but only to the laundry and housecleaning, not to educating my children. I guess it’s because I’m learning along with them. I’m hearing from the masters myself. So, it is refreshing…a renewing of the mind, as in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” By educating my children and myself at the same time, I’m doing what is pleasing to God and it is transformative, this renewing of my mind.
I might not look like I’m being transformed, wrapped in a blanket with a good book on a snowy day, but this is good. Grab a classic and join me, and be transformed.