What we have been reading in October…
Charlotte Mason’s second Volume, Parents and Children, for book club. We read chapters 3 and 4 for our meeting. It seems hard to find the old style pink paperbacks these days if you like to hold a book as I do, rather than read a website. If I were you, I’d wait until Riverbend Press comes out with their beautiful hardback copies, but if you aren’t patient enough, you can find the book here.
Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators, by William Harrison Woodward. I started this in order to read along with Brandy. I’m so glad I did. There is so much goodness in his writing. So much of it seems like it could have been pulled off the pages of Charlotte’s volumes, and indeed it was Charlotte who recommended that he be read in the back part of Volume 5 where she wrote this glowing review of this book she read when it first came out in 1897.
“Vittorino da Feltre and other Humanist Educators, by W. H. Woodward (Cambridge University Press, 6s.). This volume is something more than an interesting study in the by-ways of history. True, it treats of the schoolmasters––especially of perhaps the most famous of them, Vittorino himself––of that most fascinating period, the early days of the Renaissance, the revival of learning. But the real value of the work to us is that it shows on what liberal lines the humanist schoolmaster dealt with the questions which are debatable ground to-day. The radical fault of our English thought and opinion on the subject of education seems to be that we have somehow lost the sense of historical perspective. At each new idea, which we believe we have ourselves conceived, we cry––”We are the people”; “Never was education like unto ours.” And here, towards the end of the fourteenth and early in the fifteenth centuries, we have every one of our vexed questions answered with liberality and philosophic conviction to which we have not attained. Should girls have equal advantages with boys? Vittorino taught girls and boys together. Is early education important? He laid himself out for children of five years old. Should lessons be pleasant? La Giocosa not only named but described his school. Should there be a mixture of classes in a school? He taught children whom he educated out of his large charity with the children of princes. Do we desire a wide and liberal curriculum? This was what he accomplished––Latin and Greek, Arithmetic, Geometry, Algebra, Natural Philosophy, Euclid, Astronomy, Natural History, Music, Choral Singing, Dancing, all Games for the training and exercise of the body, and a good deal besides. Plutarch was made much use of as an educational instrument, being employed with the Bible to teach morals. Does it distress many a mother that her son should wade through the pages of classic authors too apt to be unchaste? Such authors were not admitted into the curriculum of Vittorino. Do we pride ourselves on the higher education of women? This is an old story in Italian education, where women were advanced to professorial chairs even in universities for men. Are we beginning to expect that parents should be serious students of the philosophy of education? This was a matter of course for the fifteenth-century parent, to whom the schoolmaster looked for intelligent co-operation. We owe a great debt to Mr. Woodward for focussing our loose thoughts on the subject of the Renaissance in ltaly. Persons who wish to have just and liberal views of education, not limited by the last output of the last English writer on the subject, will do well to give this volume a careful and studious perusal.”
The book is really quite good and it tempts me to write here alongside Brandy because I’ve got thoughts people.
I’m also apparently the last person to read The Awakening of Miss Prim. That’s ok. I’m late to trends all the time. I really enjoyed it. It falls firmly in the category of easy, enjoyable read and is far from “a stiff book”, but it has a charm and whimsy to it that I found so sweet without being cloyingly so. Maybe it is because I am reading it at the same time as Vittorino up there, but it felt like a vacation for the mind and I read it in two days.
In the interest of full disclosure, the book I read most is really this one: Winter is Coming. I think you might also love as much as we do. I’ve been reading it every. single. day. at the request of my toddler, but I gladly oblige. It is rare to find a story that so seamlessly includes so many of the beautiful aspects of nature study without being at all about nature study. You see the quiet observation, the drawing, the variety of animals illustrated beautifully and the changing of the season from fall into winter… it is truly delightful.
Well, I finally have some books to share! I really felt that all of the books I read last month weren’t worth mentioning. For example, my dear husband bought me a French novel as a gift. I had been a bit down and a new book was just the thing. However, he didn’t read it first–always dangerous, especially with the French. It ended with the main character throwing herself out of a window in despair. It was devastating! So, here I am at the end of October with more uplifting recommendations.
With our big move and adding a new baby, this book was a helpful reminder of the value of motherhood and habits that bring peace and joy to everyday life. “Making Time for Solitude” and “Maintain Key Friendships” were the most helpful chapters for me in this season of life!
We were able to hear Esolen speak this past weekend and he said it was one of the top 5 novels ever written! It is this piece written by Esolen many years ago on Touchstone that leads me to go with his recommendation. Here’s to hoping a Spanish novel set in Italy in the 1620s is better than a French novel set in Paris in the 1950s!
In the car, we are listening to Swallowdale, the second book in the series. The reader is excellent. I adore these books for their simple adventure and imagination. It’s also great to have a book which appeals to an 11 year old girl, a 10 year old boy and their two little sisters! Everyone thinks it’s fun to read a book about a family with 5 children who also like to play and explore together. We have taken to calling our baby, Fat Vicky, just like they do. It was a real laugh to find out in this novel how she got the nickname!
Even though the book is about children playing on summer holidays, it shows the virtues of self-reliance, fortitude, responsibility and a sporting spirit.
Here’s a great article from First Things on the first one.