Friday, September 24, 2010

Spence, “How to Raise Boys Who Read”

Thomas Spence, President of Spence Publishing Company, has written a very good article for the Wall Street Journal titled, “How to Raise Boys Who Read.” Spence is the father of 6 boys and as the father of 5 boys myself I concur with his arguments.

Spence takes on the trend of “meeting boys where they are” by giving them gross books to read (I was not even aware of how low some of this has gone). He appropriately cites Plate, Aristotle, and C. S. Lewis as exemplars of a long tradition which understood education not merely as the accumulation of facts but as the training of certain kinds of people with the ability to love what is good and hate what is bad. In summarizing this section Spence writes:

One obvious problem with the SweetFarts philosophy of education is that it is more suited to producing a generation of barbarians and morons than to raising the sort of men who make good husbands, fathers and professionals. If you keep meeting a boy where he is, he doesn't go very far.

Then, if appealing to boys’ interest in gross things is not the way to get them to read, what is the answer? Spence cites studies and then gives this basic, commons sense answer:

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

Amen! It may be difficult but it is our job as parents and it is worthwhile.

Spence closes with this:

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean [author of SweetFarts] or Robert Louis Stevenson?

I encourage you to read the full article.

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Church Father on Childhood Learning

“what we learn in childhood adheres to the mind and grows with it”

- Irenaeus, 2d century bishop of Lyons (cited in Eusebius: The Church History, trans Paul Maier)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Lives of Famous Romans

Lives of Famous Romans, by Olivia Coolidge

(1965; reprinted 2007, American Home School Publishing), pb., 221 pp.
Ages 11+

This book gives an overview of the lives of twelve key men in the history of Rome beginning with Cicero and ending with Constantine. I like the idea of the book, but was not thrilled with the execution. It was dull though still a little breezy. If we are going to press on through a less than exciting account, we will do that with a classic source. Secondary retellings will have to be more engaging and helpful, or they serve little purpose.