Tuesday, 6 October 2015

So We Have This Crazy Plan...

You know how if you've been in higher education for any length of time, there are these books that people keep referencing, so you start doing it too, even though you never read them?

Me neither. I totally, always had read all the books.

Yup. Read those too.


Moving on.

Although I strongly suspect that many academics actually haven't read those books either, I have always been kind of curious, but also, you know, already defeated by the enormity of the task.

Enters The Well-Trained Mind

As I have mentioned before (or was it in the comments?), Simon and I hope to homeschool our children if at all possible, and the trivium method obviously appealed to my historian heart. (Yes, I am aware of the Golden Age Fallacy, but I can't help myself).

- In a nutshell, the Trivium was the method used in classical education, which relied on the division of learning in three stages: fact gathering - grammar stage -, analysis -  logic stage -, and development of a personal argument - rhetoric stage. Of course, it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the main idea. It is also language and written word driven. -

Anyway, I have been reading up on the method and planning an imaginary wonderland of enthusiastic familial learning, with cheery children enthusiastically memorizing Latin declensions and historical dates in a magically immaculate house with books everywhere. 

Good morning mother! I was just spontaneously teaching myself to sew. Your coffee is on the counter.

I'll give a bit of time for people who are already homeschooling so they can finish laughing.

Whilst doing all this reading, I discovered that Susan Wise-Bauer also wrote another book to help adults give themselves the sound grounding in the classics we are only pretending we have. I bought it for my ever-bent-on-self-improvement husband, and he was kind of smitten. And roped me in.

So, we have decided to go through the lists of classics the author proposes  one by one (but I reserve the right to do some changes to the lists if I feel French culture needs to be better represented), following the Trivium method. 

Although I was all for starting with the history list and finally reading Plutarch and Francis Fukuyama, Simon preferred to start more gently with the novels.

So we are reading Don Quixote at the moment.

Does anyone fancy doing it with us?

The principle is very simple: you commit to reading for 30 minutes 4 times a week, with a notebook handy, where you write a one-sentence summary of every chapter as you go through them, as well as any questions you have. Then we will go back to the notes in order to re-read the key moments and ask ourselves some basic questions (logic stage), before writing an essay about it for the rhetoric stage. Not a long essay though.

Anyway, we are doing it, so if anyone feels equally geeky and would like some company and a place to start, just let me know and I'll do regular updates. If not, prepare yourself for random essays on classic books to appear from time to time over here (because it's my blog, so if I want to geek about the classics, well, I will.)

We are reading Don Quixote, by Cervantes, the Oxford World's Classic edition (here), and we are on chapter 7 (they are very short chapters, so you can easily catch up).

So, wish us luck! Or, in the unlikely event that you too like obscure, crazy, geeky goals, jump in!


  1. Well I *definitely* wish you luck! I think it's a great idea, especially doing it with your husband and will be looking forward to all the random essays! ;-)

    1. Thanks! I can generally be relied on to come up with an opinion on things :-D!

  2. I did laugh out loud when I got to the photo. But yes! Yes, I would love to! And Don Quixote is a great place to start. I've been meaning to do this for, literally, years, ('though how I am old enough to have possibly meant to do this for years remains a mystery), so I would love to join in. :-) Thanks for asking!

    1. It's because you started VERY young :-).
      That's fantastic, I'll make sure to update regularly so you can tell us how it is going for you (I'm quite excited about it all!).

    2. Trying to choose a translation; do you know how the various options compare? I can't use your link, because I'm in the States. I am wondering if I should just get it in Spanish; is that totally crazy?

    3. I know that the older ones were very far from the text, so I would go for a recent one. Also, Susan wise-Bauer advises against too many footnotes, as they are distracting. Our version has got the footnotes at the end of the book, which is fine.
      I tried reading it in Spanish some years back, but was defeated, the language is quite antiquated, and you might end up having to rely on lots of footnotes, but I suppose it depends on your level of fluency in Spanish!

    4. Meh - modern Spanish, pretty decent. Antiquated Spanish, not so much. But it's helpful to know to look for a more modern translation, thanks!