Monday, January 26, 2015

Why Study the Classics of Literature?

B-O-R-I-N-G.

Is that the word that comes to mind when you think of the great classics of literature? Probably not, since you’re here, perhaps as a result of my introduction last week of my ongoing series to create a ninth grade literature curriculum.


I know I’ve heard it plenty, especially when I was in high school, totally loving my literature classes while everyone around me fainted away with the exertion of lifting the book to read it. But there are many benefits to reading in general, including reading the classics.

  1. It increases the attention span. You know how long some of those classics are? According to Amazon, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace weighs in at 1,296 pages. {We’re not reading that one. J}
  2. It increases the concentration level. You know how big some of those words are? How long some of those paragraphs can be?
  3. You learn much about human nature.
  4. As you learn about human nature, you develop compassion. How can you not feel sorry for the Hunchback and commiserate with his deep need for acceptance and love? Did you wipe away a tear as you read about Beth in Little Women? You won’t look at people the same.
  5. You will improve your writing skills. Reading excellent writing improves one’s own writing.
  6. You will increase vocabulary. One could get absolutely giddy about all the big words! J
  7. It’s good practice in critical thinking and applying a Biblical perspective to different situations. 

One of the main reasons I wanted to create this study for my children is because I believe that reading the classics of literature is one of the safest ways to learn of the dangers of the world without actually experiencing the consequences. It can be an effective way to prepare our children for the potential pitfalls of adulthood so that they can navigate it successfully and with their faith intact.

I don’t have any specific timeline for this study, except that we plan to complete all the books, in the order listed, by the end of June. We all read at different speeds and have varied schedules, so peruse them at your own pace. We’ll start with Little Women, and next Monday’s post will be background information about the book and the author.




Let’s defy Mr. Twain’s definition and read…and praise…these classics. J










What are your thoughts on this study? Do I need more guidelines? Is it flexible enough? I appreciate your feedback.






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20 comments:

  1. Love love LOVED this: "It’s good practice in critical thinking and applying a Biblical perspective to different situations. One of the main reasons I wanted to create this study for my children is because I believe that reading the classics of literature is one of the safest ways to learn of the dangers of the world without actually experiencing the consequences."
    !!!!!!!!!!! That's AWESOME!
    I remember reading excerpt upon excerpt of classic Literature in school (elementary and highschool-- we did A Beka lol) and how our teachers took every example and applied Biblical reasoning to it. We learned what was praiseworthy and right, courageous but also what was wrong, why it was wrong, how we should deal with those types of circumstances, and often we saw the characters face the consequences in one aspect or the other!
    GOOD STUFF!!!!!! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words! You list out terrific things to consider when reading. Sounds like your teachers were wonderful! :-)

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  2. I'm trying to read Moby Dick...TRYING! I want to get through it before I see the new movie with Chris Helmsworth upon which the book is based. I didn't know we were going to be taken on an extensive 'tour' through the anatomy of whales and the different species. Snooze. Sticking with it though as it is going to be a personal accomplishment that I do not want to wimp out on.

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    1. My daughter was just talking about Moby Dick the other day, Melissa. She read an abbreviated children's version a few years ago and struggled with it. I've never read it, but good for you in your perseverance! :-)

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  3. Years ago I started working my way through Susan Wise Bauer's book, "The Well Educated Mind"... I'm still in the first pages of "Don Quixote" thus stuck on page 53 or Susan's book...

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    1. I haven't read Susan Wise Bauer's book, but I did read Don Quixote in high school. It was interesting but a little odd. Not one I would want to read again.... :-)

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  4. I read War and Peace when I was 15. I actually did it for fun, and enjoyed it so much, I bought myself a copy last year with my birthday money! I'm hoping to read through it again. I recommend watching the movie, then reading the book. Warning, both are very long ;~)

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    1. Thanks for the tip, Moriah. When my 15yo daughter read this blog post, she said she wanted to read War and Peace. I think she just wants the challenge of reading such a long book...nothing wrong with that motivation! :-) So we'll be on the lookout for a good used copy or free for kindle.

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  5. I love your perspective on why we should study the classics. We love the classics in our home. My daughter has read several that I haven't even read yet. Her introduction to the classics was through Jane Austen. From there she moved on to Les Miserables which she has read many times. Recently she's been giving To Kill a Mockingbird a good study. She challenged herself to read War and Peace and did it. My oldest son has read quite a few classics too, and I see our youngers ones as following in their steps in a few years. Thank you for this series.

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    1. Another War and Peace reader! Maybe I should add it to the list? :-) This will be my first time reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm looking forward to it. Thanks so much for commenting, Jennifer, and I'm glad you're here!

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  6. I agree whole-heartedly with your reasoning for teaching classic literature. Many studies are showing that the classics do more to develop insight and empathy in their readers than those who just read popular fiction. Providing your children with a strong and diverse foundation of literature will help them navigate their lives. I am planning on homeschooling, but in college I majored in English and Secondary English Education. One of the things I want to start doing on my blog: http://www.theengagedhome.com is to start creating "unit studies" for home school kids ages 10 and up. I see a lot of resources for younger kids, but not many for older kids. I would focus mostly on the subjects of History and English. As a homeschooling parent, do you think this would be beneficial?

    As far as the plan you have laid out, I think you chose great books! My only suggestion would be to group the "American Literature" and "British Literature" separately, unless you plan on having your kids compare and contrast styles. The reason I suggest that is because it allows your kids to understand the literary movements and their historical contexts better. I always learned more when I was studying American History and American Literature side by side, or British Literature and European History side by side. It allows kids to make more mental connections, remember more, and understand the literature more fully.

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    1. I think your unit studies are an excellent idea, Nathana, and I completely agree that we could use more in History and English for older grades. {Hence, my literature study.... :-) } I have thought exactly what you did, putting American Literature together as well as British Literature. It would be terrific to have the books line up with the history studies, but my readers use a variety of curriculum, so I don't think I could make that work for everyone. Thanks so much for your comment!

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  7. I love the classics and am looking forward to incorporating them into our homeschool in the future. Right now I'm just schooling 1st grade and down, so a little too early yet, but soon!

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    1. I would love to have you read along, Miranda. :-)

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  8. Many, many years ago, when I was homeschooling, we solved the boring part of reading classics. My kids did crafts, or coloring, or whatever they wanted that was quiet, while I read the classics to them. Those evening readings are some of my best memories now. It increased their vocabulary, their listening skills, helped them to multi-task, increased their love of literature, widened their horizons, and I got to read books I loved as a kid and explore new books to love. It was a win-win all around. I can't emphasize ENOUGH how important reading aloud is and how valuable the classics are. Thanks for your post!

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    1. Thank you, Beverly, for sharing your experiences. Reading aloud is one of the best things we can do for our children. Blessings to you! :-)

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  9. I love this, Meghan! I'm finding that the only way to combat the y'alls is to keep reading the classics. Ha!!! (I still let a few slip in now and then, just for fun!)

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    1. Y'alls are great, especially now that you live in Arkansas, Sarah! I love how many classics you've been reading and reviewing on Belle's Library. Great discussions!

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  10. We love reading through the classics with our family. I like the list you created with why you read the classics. Some of your reasons were ones I hadn't thought of for our family. I also like the quote from Mark Twain that you posted. We are currently reading Treasure Island and then we will be on to Mary Poppins. Thanks for sharing your post!

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    1. Oooh, Mary Poppins! I adore the movie and always wanted to read the book...but never did. I need to get it in my TBR pile. Thanks, Carrie! :-)

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I so much appreciate your time and effort in leaving a comment, and I try to respond to as many as time permits. :-)