In John 11, Jesus learns that Lazarus is sick, though He does not come to attend to his friend until Lazarus has been dead four days. After witnessing how distraught Lazarus’ sisters were at his death, Jesus is lead to the place where Lazarus is entombed and “Jesus wept,” and after He wept, He raised him from the dead.
How ought reading be taught? Notice that the question asks “how ought” not “how can”. The question bears a subsequent inquiry: what should my students read? One technique I have grown increasing aware of is children sitting in small groups reading little paperback pamphlets about animals, the seasons, plants, and daily life bearing lots of pictures and few words. Another characteristic of these pamphlets is that they are “graded”. That is, they are leveled from easy to hard by use of a number or alphabetic code.
There comes a point when walks do more good than books. You know the feeling: the page grows opaque; the same sentence spins like a pinwheel three or four times across the eyes; and your thoughts, like snow geese, join in sudden migratory flight. At times like this, the best thing isn’t reading. It’s walking: donning your fleece, rounding the block, and listening once more to the wild poetry of the poplars—not so you can stop thinking, but so you can truly start again.
Wordsworth knew the good of outdoor learning and wrote some lines about it:
The Iliad, Homer tells us, is about the rage of Achilles and the will of Zeus, and about how these two interact with each other. Quoting Lattimore:
Sing goddess the anger of Peleus son Achilleus
And its devastation, which put pains thousandfold upon the Achaians,
Hurled in their multitudes to the house of Hades strong souls
of heroes, but gave their bodies to be the delicate feasting
of dogs, of all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished...
You knew it was coming. It comes every quarter. But predictability doesn’t make it any easier. Every time we approach grades, I often end up asking myself existential questions. Why? What’s it all for? What do grades mean anyway? The wherefore hits home when one considers that although we classical educators philosophically oppose scienticism and modern education, many of us still use grading systems born in a time when science was univocally redefining what it meant to know anything.
My youngest child, just nearing his seventh birthday, has begun writing what I like to think of as love letters. He is not an accomplished reader or writer. He is all boy – far more interested in sword fighting than in wrestling with letters which currently signify, to him, little that is particularly interesting. Yet my heart is overjoyed to see him write small tokens of his affection to each member of our family.
My Dear Wormwood,
Our patient has only recently become a Christian, and over the coming weeks, we should expect him to make some genuine progress in overcoming certain sins in which he has dabbled over the course of his life. He may have struggled with theft up until this point, or telling lies, or anger, or drunkenness. If you see him enjoy some victory over these vices, do not be discouraged. Chances are good that, despite his minor successes, one particular sin will continue to trip him up.
Beowulf, like The Odyssey, opens with a hidden main character. Even though he is the protagonist and the title of the poem, our hero doesn’t show up until line 297, and even then he isn’t named until line 345. Instead the poet carefully sets the stage for the arrival of Beowulf by telling us a whole lot about the Danish king, Hrothgar.
What should you do when you find a book hard to finish? Novelist Nick Hornby argues that you should just put it down. According to a recent Telegraph article, Hornby said that no one, including children, should read a book they do not want to read.