Saturday, July 11, 2015

In Which I Discover There is More to Life than Star Trek

Have you ever noticed how easily people fall into ruts habits? When I was growing up, if there was a special occasion in my home, it was marked with a dinner of fillet mignon and asparagus, followed by Rocky Road ice cream for dessert. My children are gourmet cheese mongers. Every time we go to the grocery store, the want to check the cheese counter for samples. Me? I'm a coffee girl. Gourmet, fair trade, locally roasted, freshly ground: pour it in, foam it up, and top it with whipped cream and I'm a happy girl. All of these foods are delicious. Really, who can argue with fillet mignon? A grilled cheese made with applewood smoked Gouda? Rocky Road?! Obviously though, one meal, no matter how special, won't fill every need. It's easy to see that any diet consisting of only a few foods is going to leave us missing important nutrients.

Why is it that a principle we can see so clearly in the physical world becomes so cloudy and debatable when it comes to the intellectual world? Charlotte Mason declared that the mind has needs, just like the body does.

Knowledge 'nourishes' the mind as food nourishes the body.
A child requires knowledge as much as he requires food.
~Volume 6, p.18

If this is true, then it is easy to see that one or two kinds of books will not serve to create a full and richly-fed mind. Just like our bodies, our minds require both quantity and variety.

In the nature of things then the unspoken demand of children is for a wide and very varied curriculum; it is necessary that they should have some knowledge of the wide range of interests proper to them as human beings, and for no reasons of convenience or time limitations may we curtail their proper curriculum.
~Volume 6, p.14 

But just like the suspicious redundancy in my weekly meal plan, it's easy to fall into a reading rut. Growing up, I read science fiction and epic fantasy. I cut my teeth on Narnia, loved all the iterations of Star Trek (well, almost all of them; I'm looking in deep disgust at you, Deep Space 9), then leaped happily into Xanth, Pern, and Edgar Rice Burroughs' Red Planet. I was full to the brim with grilled asparagus and Rocky Road, but there was little else in my reading life. I would have been happy to continue this way, except...

...well... children. Yup, children don't come out reading. Who knew? If I wanted to expose them to many ideas through a broad and generous curriculum, I was going to have to read their books aloud. So, we read books. 

So. Many. Books.

We read history, biography, fairy tales, natural science, poetry, and geography. One of my favorite things about Ambleside Online is the number and variety of books. I run into old friends all the time, but there are also a lot of unfamiliar titles. We read a chapter at a time, slowly working through a book, sometimes over two or three years, and the girls draw surprising connections between all the diverse sources. It's delightful to see.

Even though two of my girls can read at least some of their own schoolbooks, I find that my own appetite has been whetted by the past few years of broad reading. I don't want to pass off that history book. In fact, I find myself searching for more information, because I just have to know if Richard III really did kill his nephews or if it was a politically-motivated frame-up by Henry VII. (I still don't know, by the way, but I have my suspicions.) I'm digging their geography book, because I never really noticed how the shape of the land drives history. As I model the kind of curiosity that I want my kids to develop, it's growing in my own life.

What about you? Is your personal reading heavy in one particular genre? (And do tell, which is it? I always want to hear more about people's favorite books.) Have you decided or been forced to branch out into something new? How did it go?