The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer (Non-Review)

Although I file this post as a review, I cannot really review The Well-Trained Mind: The Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and her mother Jessie Wise (third edition, 2009). I only read the Elementary chapters (Part I) in full and bits and pieces of Part IV since my son is only four years old.

As I have pondered my son’s next year and a half before he begins kindergarten, I’ve found myself rather concerned about the local public schools and I’ve been pondering home schooling or other options. Obviously, I don’t have to make any decisions right now, but The Well-Trained Mind gave me some ideas for how homeschooling can work right. This book is one extreme because it provides ideas for giving a fully Classical education at home — including heavy emphasis in memorization during the early elementary years, and teaching your third grader Latin. They also promote their own textbooks ad nauseum (textbooks which get horrible reviews on sites where they are sold). If I were to home school (again, jury is still out), this would be a fantastic place to start for ideas on what to teach: I’d probably find my own less expensive resources and modify the programs to be a bit less labor intensive on mother and child’s part. The authors indicate that modifications are to be expected depending on your teaching style and preferences. I appreciated their acknowledgement of the need for flexibility.

All that said, The Well-Trained Mind certainly delivered what it promised (at least for the parts I read): it guided a parent on how to begin the intimidating process of teaching your child the classics in a classic style at home and from a young age. This is something to revisit if I do decide to home school my son (or even if I decided to supplement his daily life with home lessons in addition to what he learns at school; I believe it can be done and can be fun).

If you home school, I’d be interested to know how you incorporate classical literature into your curriculum. What’s your home schooling style?

Season to Taste by Molly Birnbaum

Just months before Molly Birnbaum was to enter the Culinary Institute of America to fulfill her dream to become a chef, she met with a violent accident. Although she escaped with her life, in addition to other physical wounds she had lost her sense of smell. Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way (Ecco, July 2011) is Molly’s story of finding her place in the kitchen again. But Season to Taste is far more than a personal memoir: it’s also a journalistic study of what smell means to flavor, cooking, and daily life. Continue Reading

(Kids Corner) Some Cybils 2011 Books about … Pets

As I’ve been reading through Cybils Fiction Picture Book Nominees, I’ve found so many wonderful books that I’ve reached a point of realization: I will not get time to post on all of those that I have loved reading with Raisin. I have been trying to keep them in categories and I’ll keep doing so for a few more weeks. Keep in mind as you see the books I’ve mentioned below that these are only some of the many wonderful books about pets. In my next Cybils post, I’ll share some thoughts on books about some other animals.Continue Reading

RIP Short Stories: Nabokov and Borges, Elizabeth Bowen, Eudora Welty, and Elizabeth Taylor

Although October is over, I still have a few more RIP short stories to share about. I really put off writing today’s post simply because of the five stories I read, I didn’t really enjoy three of them and the other two (both rereads) are ones I like but still didn’t completely understand. I bet you can guess which ones fit in that category.

I’ll begin with the two that I really like, despite the confusion I felt as I reread them. The first is Vladimir Nabokov’s “The Visit to the Museum.” In this story, a man goes to a museum on the request of a friend to purchase one of it’s paintings. When he meets with the museum director, however, he in essence is taken into his worst nightmare. This story seems pretty straight forward, and it is wonderfully written. The narrator’s confusion and frustration is magnified as I read, since I deal with claustrophobia myself. At any rate, it’s a frustrating story to read, but as with most of Nabokov’s stories (I haven’t read his novels yet), it is a masterpiece. I do recommend it.

The next story is Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Circular Ruins.” A man approaches some ancient ruins with one goal in mind: to dream a person into creation. If that sounds like an odd premise, trust me, it is. As when I read Borges the last time, this story was marvelously confusing, and yet, I enjoyed reading it more than I did last time. As I read great literature, I am impressed by the author’s ability to capture a confusing premise in mere words: words which I struggle to grasp control over. Reading great literature is a challenge: I need to reread Borges more often to better appreciate it.

The other three stories were less engaging for me. Maybe I’m getting tired of reading short stories? I’ve found I go through phases and every time I try to do a short story reading project I tire of it by the end. Nevertheless, my first works by these authors were still good.

Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Happy Autumn Fields” took one woman named Mary into a dream or ghost-like experience with her predecessors Sarah and Henrietta. It’s a strange take on the term “ghost story” and because the scene starts in the middle, I was quite confused for the beginning of the story. In Eudora Welty’s “Clytie,” the titular character was haunted by faces. She intrigued me, but I never felt completely connected to Clytie. Her life story was a sad one, and I wanted to better understand her. Finally, Elizabeth Taylor’s “Poor Girl” focused on a haunted governess, over which her young seven-year-old charge seemed to have power. I am drawn to stories of governesses (as I read this story, I remembered that I need to reread The Turn of the Screw) and this was an interesting take. As I ended, I wondered as I often have on reading these ghost stories just what happened. This was another creepy tale of a haunted life.

(These stories are not in the public domain).

I have one more week (four more stories) of RIP short stories from my Everyman’s Ghost Stories volume. It’s been fun to see how classic authors and the editor of this volume have interpreted “ghost stories.” It goes to show that although I am a “please don’t scary me” person, there are plenty of spooky-ish stories that work just fine in bring the season to life.

I’m not sure which volume of stories, essays, or poems I’ll tackle after this one, but I like having something a little different to report on each week.