I tried my best to keep an accurate book list this year. I’m never very good at it, but keeping it online (at the bottom of this blog, actually) caused me to be more thorough than I’ve ever been, though I have a nagging suspicion that I missed a few titles! I feel like I didn’t read much, especially considering E-Age-Ten’s recent announcement that he read almost 200 books (!), but I console myself with the fact that what I read, I tried to read deeply.
I’ve changed my philosophy on reading these past couple of years. I used to do lots and lots of personal reading. I like reading, after all. But once E-Age-Ten began doing his Ambleside readings on his own, I had a choice to make: was I going to pre-read? Or not?
I knew that I would have a hard time having a real conversation with him about his reading if I wasn’t also familiar with the material. I considered that I had three other children who would also read these books one day, and every single one of them is more likely to need interaction with me over the books than this first son of mine. I reminded myself that there was no way I’d be able to read for multiple years at a time when my younger children are no longer quite so young.
And so I decided to make the Ambleside readings my personal reading list. AO is a fabulous curriculum, full of truly good books…most of which I’ve never read. Or, I read them in childhood and do not remember them well (no one ever taught me to narrate, of course). So, other than indulging in my book club addiction, most of the books I finished up in 2012 will look remarkably familiar to those of you who have done AO Years 4 and 5 before.
For me, making the AO list my list was a mental thing I needed to do. Either I could sit down each weekend and do the readings and feel like it was a chore, or I could sit down and read them and feel like it was a treat. Either way, I had decided that, in order to give my children the best education I can, I needed to read them. The question was in which sort of spirit I would read them.
I chose cheerful.
Ninety percent of the time, it works out that way. There is still the occasional busy weekend where the reading feels like I “have” to do it, but then again my dear book clubs can feel that way, too, sometimes and it doesn’t mean I do not appreciate them, or that I’d give them up.
Now that I’ve been doing this for almost two years, I can also say that there is something to be said for a prescriptive book list.
For many years, I chose my own reading. I followed the rabbit trails in which I was interested. I didn’t subject myself to books that I didn’t want to read. Now, there is much to be said for being an autodidact, please don’t misunderstand me. But I was struck when I read Simmons’ words:
Education was less like a tool and more like a medicine.
I adore the Ambleside booklist. As I already said, most of the time, reading this–and then not having time to read books of my own choosing–is a delight. But I also keep in mind that in order to be great (thus sayeth Simmons), we must spend time with great things, and unfortunately, when left to my own devices, I choose inferior books half of the time. Possibly more than half the time.
I think that, for me, at this time in my life, a prescriptive books list–where people with better taste and higher standards, who put so, so much thought into the selections–will produce greater things in me than if I followed my own path.
Some people out there are capable of choosing wonderful books. I hope to be one of those people by the time I’m forty! But for now, I see benefits to taking my medicine, so to speak.
Tomorrow, I’ll share my actual list. If I’m feeling really inspired, I might even organize it into categories or something.
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