Wednesday, March 04, 2015

improving my reading habits

I don't remember how the idea occurred to me, perhaps it was my January reading of Karen Glass' Charlotte Mason book, Consider This which is quite likely.
Whatever it was, I realized that I had to do better keeping up with Seth's reading and making notes for myself to keep it all organized in my head. I do try to read many of the books I give to him each week for his free reads, but the books I ask for narrations from often fall by the wayside.
So I started with the book that he was reading, Rosemary Sutcliff's Black Ships Before Troy and started reading it myself.
But before I even got past the first wonderfully illustrated page, I decided I need a map. A map of the Mediterranean, with notes for which King and his people lived where. I got out an atlas. I researched the likely location of Troy and clicked links to other helpful material. I erased my lines and corrected the shapes of islands, peninsulas and coasts. None of this took me too long, but as I drew and wrote, my mind grabbed hold of this work and made it mine.
I took the book to bed and scratched out "should" questions and "why" statements after my readings. I enjoyed myself.
I brought the book to our next Morning Time and asked Seth if we could start over, reading the book aloud together at times. We took turns reading and then I asked if he had any "should" questions. We talked.
Later, he wrote questions instead of giving narrations and we talked about some of those too.
I showed him my notebook and asked him if he wanted to make his own map. He went further and made a chart of the characters and whose side they were on. We finished the book, both at different times, but with much more understanding of the story than before. And now I found a second hand copy of Sutcliff's other companion book, The Wanderings of Odysseus with the same full page illustrations by Alan Lee which we will start later this month.

In the meantime, those lovely, but conniving people at Romans Road Media issued a Great Books Challenge to parents to purchase the The Aeneid and complete the dvd study by mid-May to earn another curriculum package for free. How could I resist?
I am currently almost halfway through the lecture and reading series and loving it. I take notes on Mr. Wesley Callihan's dvd lecture, I do the readings, I take notes on my readings, write myself narrations, and loosely follow Kathy Weitz's literature study technique of Reflection, Connections and Commonplace in my notebook. Then I read her posts and see how far I have yet to come in my connections. But it's all good and others are posting about the challenge too, so I can read their thoughts as well. Plus if I have a question, I can post it on Kathy Weitz's Facebook page, Cottage Press and she and others will answer. I have shared some of the insights about Roman ideas with Shane, my husband, which reinforces the notes I've scribbled down.

I have always kept lined spiral notebooks, I don't know when I started, but this is the first time I have used blank pages which has given me space and freedom to draw, paste and scribble notes wherever I please. And best of all, when I want to reference something, I flip back and there it is. My questions and connections may be made by others, mine are not original, but they are mine in the sense that I have studied, read and thought about the material.
I came across these quotes from Italian author Umberto Eco last week and I saved them because they reminded me of why I read and study without being told to unlike my days of formal schooling.

"An illiterate person who dies, let us say at my age, has lived one life, whereas I have lived the lives of Napoleon, Caesar, d’Artagnan. So I always encourage young people to read books, because it’s an ideal way to develop a great memory and a ravenous multiple personality. And then at the end of your life you have lived countless lives, which is a fabulous privilege."

"I like the notion of stubborn incuriosity. To cultivate a stubborn incuriosity, you have to limit yourself to certain areas of knowledge. You cannot be totally greedy. You have to oblige yourself not to learn everything. Or else you will learn nothing. Culture in this sense is about knowing how to forget. Otherwise, one indeed becomes like Funes, who remembers all the leaves of the tree he saw thirty years ago. Discriminating what you want to learn and remember is critical from a cognitive standpoint."
~ Umberto Eco


  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and the photos. This is an area I want to grow in, as well, and I love your examples here.

  2. Wow, Mystie, I'm so honored to have you comment here. Thanks for coming by and leaving your thoughts on these posts.

  3. Great post! I'm impressed with the depth and intentionality of your studies.

    1. Thank you, Lauren. I appreciate your kind words.

  4. Interesting comment about using a blank notebook & thanks for the link to Kathy Weitz's page, she has some good ideas there.

    1. It's kind of like when Mystie said on her commonplace post that by using cheap spiral notebooks(which I do too) she doesn't worry about it being her best work. I found that by using these blank ones for this kind of work, I'm free to add notes wherever I please.
      I just discovered Kathy early in the new year and I have loved reading her posts. Thanks for commenting, Carol. It's always nice to hear from you.

  5. What a lovely copy of Sutcliff's book--I will have to search it out! I think I have an old, un-illustrated copy on my shelves, but we haven't gotten there yet. ;)

    Love how you have integrated the mapwork, character charts, and discussion time into your read-along. As my kids get more independent in their reading, I am finding much temptation to just leave them to themselves and have them come to me for narrations, then go on their way again. That's particularly a temptation since I have two in the same year, so they do at least have each other. But I don't want to miss those opportunities to scaffold their learning and have those "grand conversations," so I've been doing some planning for next year and thinking through how best to do that while juggling younger students too. Thank you for showing me an example in action! It gives me some more ideas of how to incorporate this.

    1. Thanks Celeste. I have been very intimidated by all the keeping posts others have shared, but after I wrote this up, I thought perhaps I would put myself out there and share this post. Thanks for your enthusiasm, it means a lot to be encouraged by all of you and find myself in such good company.

  6. This is very impressive, Heather. I, too, used only lined spiral notebooks, but I have just recently started using sketch notebooks with no lines, and I prefer them. As you say "they give you space and freedom to draw", so I have been embellishing my quotes, not with maps - yet. But thanks to you, I can see how to work that into my commonplace should the need arise. :)
    Thanks for the inspiration.
    I am adding your blog to my sidebar to share with others. :)
    Have a lovely day!


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