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Reflections on my “Inspired by SLE Reading List Part 2”

It’s been over six months, but the end is in sight on my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2. When we started this journey back in November, Bruce was 6 and a half, and my daughter Jenna was still in a crib. It was easy to find time each night to snuggle up with Bruce and introduce him to some of the biggest ideas in the world. Together we learned to say “Moooz-lim” instead of “Muz-lim”, we read about the courage of Cabeza de Vaca, we were inspired by Rumi, and we contemplated the code of Dinotopia. Now Bruce is 7, Jenna is in a big-girl bed, and bedtime routines have shifted.

Add to this the honest but horrible conversation Bruce had with me a month ago “Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but reading books with your mom is something you grow out of, like babies grow out of using bottles.” Go ahead and stab me in the heart why don’t you! Isn’t seven too young for a talk like that with your mommy?

The root cause is that Bruce is such a quick reader that when I read aloud to him it is way too slow. This is all my own doing, because if he was a typical first grade reader we would still be snuggled up reading Mary Pope Osborne together. Instead, I am banished to reading Clifford Visits the Hospital for the umpteen millionth time with Jenna at bedtime.

So now we are at the last book from this reading list, the Candlewick Illustrated Classic version of Don Quixote by Cervantes, adapted for children by Martin Jenkins and illustrated by Chris Riddell.  I would love to say that Bruce and I are reading Don Quixote together, but the truth is that he is reading it by himself…usually in the bathroom. I don’t know what that means and am trying not to think about it.

I guess now would be a good idea to remind myself of my learning goals for this reading list, because it seems like we have reached them:

Learning Goals for Children

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

P.S. The two books Bruce and I read about Martin Luther did not mention him having his great insight while sitting on the toilet. But remembering that bit of history makes ending this learning journey with my son reading Cervantes in the bathroom all the more fitting. 🙂

SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2 Update

To me, a Classical Education is about raising critical thinkers who are grounded in history, philosophy, literature, religion, science and math; and who are able to clearly express their opinions in both conversation and writing. It is going to be a continual process to get both of my children to that goal. We are lucky to live in a great school district where I am very confident my children will learn the three R’s, but teaching them about philosophy and the world’s religions is pretty much up to me. This has been where both of my SLE Inspired Reading Lists 1 and 2 have come in handy, as well as Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World CDs.

Regular Teaching My Baby to Read readers might have noticed that it has been a long time since I have updated you on my SLE Inspired Reading List for Children Part 2. Bruce(7) and I finished reading almost all of the books several months ago, and they have been sitting on my desk waiting to be blogged about. It would have been much better if I hadn’t procrastinated, because then our experience with my second reading list would have been fresher in my mind and easier to write about. On the other hand, it’s interesting to look back and see how the values and issues Bruce and I learned about together have now been integrated into our daily thinking.

These were my learning goals from my SLE Inspired Reading List Part Two:

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

These were the books we read:

Now, it’s up to me to make good, clear off my desk, and review away. Stay tuned!

Rumi Whirling Dervish, by Demi

First off, let me say that I am really behind my SLE Inspired Reading List #2 postings. Rumi Whirling Dervish by Demi has been sitting on my desk for a while, but not because it isn’t an engaging, artful book to read with children. I don’t like to share too many images of the inside of books, because I want to be respectful of Copyrights, but here’s a glimpse at the beautiful illustrations and text in Rumi:

Rumi lived over 800 years ago and settled in Turkey, even though he was born in Afghanistan. He is most famous for inventing/establishing the order of the Whirling Dervishes, who believe their spinning brings closeness to God and peacefulness to the Earth.

Rumi was also a prolific poet. Here is a brief excerpt about Rumi from the book’s jacket describing his poetry: “He wrote about the love that resides in the soul of everyone regardless of religion or background.” All of the poems included in this book were really lovely and not too difficult for children to understand.

From a current events perspective, this was a really interesting book to read with my son Bruce(6.5) because Rumi was born in Afghanistan, and his family traveled through the Middle East before settling in Turkey. Reading Rumi was an easy and meaningful way to expose my son to poetry and culture from that region. It was also nice to read a picture book with him again, because he usually won’t stand for anything he perceives as “too babyish”. In fact, I am going to be adding any book I can find by Demi to my library holds list.

P.S. Now that I’ve finally finished writing up Rumi Whirling Dervish, I can go place it on the bookshelf, or another ulterior location than my desk.  (Sorry.  I had trouble working in my SAT word today.  :))

The Kidnapped Prince

Bruce(6.5) and I are nearing the end of my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2. The last book we are slated to read is a children’s version of Don Quixote, which is going to be one of Bruce’s Christmas presents. I have a big back-log of books to review, so I’ll start with the most recently read first

In my mind, The Kidnapped Prince: The Life of Olaudah Equiano, adapted by Ann Cameron, is a must read for British and American elementary school students. It tells Olaudah Equiano’s story of capture, the Middle Passage, enslavement, betrayal, and his life long quest for education and independence. A more sensitive first grader than Bruce might have been too upset by parts of this book to read, but my son just listened with a very serious face. Here’s a passage from page 32 about the separation of families in slave auctions that is especially sad:

“We had already lost our homes, our countries, and almost everyone we loved. The people who did the selling and buying could have done it without separating us from our very last relatives and friends. They already could live in riches from our misery and toil. What possible advantage did they gain from this refinement of cruelty? But they practiced it–and went to church on Sunday, and said that they were Christian.”

I had read the primary source book written by Equiano in college, but did not remember his story until I started reading The Kidnapped Prince with Bruce. The detail that triggered my memory was when Equiano sees flying fish off deck during the Middle Passage. I don’t know why I remembered the flying fish, but had blocked out the rest of the story.

If go back to my original goals for my SLE Inspired Reading List Part 2, the juxtaposition between enslavement of thoughts and actual slavery is really intense.

Learning Goals for Children

  • We are all capable of thinking our own thoughts and forming our own ideas. We do not need to be slaves to the thinking of others.
  • We are responsible for our own actions, and are accountable for our actions to our own conscious, our families, and our community. Many people in the world believe we are also accountable to God.

People didn’t just all of a sudden go out and capture slaves. There was a system of ideas they believed that made them think it was okay. Thinking patterns, (in this case evil thinking patterns), led to actual evil. No matter what your religious belief is, reading the story of how Equiano and his fellow slaves were treated makes you want those slave traders to be held accountable in a big way!

P.S. When Bruce is older I’d like him to watch the movie “Amazing Grace“. I don’t know if you have seen it or not, but it tells the story of William Wilberforce had his fight to make England abolish slavery. That movie made a very big impact on me, and I highly recommend it for people 13 years old and above.