Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spring Reading Challenge Update~My Apologia

The longed for contemplative life has eluded me the past three or four weeks and I have come to understand the phrase "Spring Reading Challenge" in a new way; it has been a challenge to find any time to read. The last half of March and April have been a whirlwind of camping, baseball games and administration, houseguests, etc., etc.. All good and necessary things in this season of life but I do find myself longing for more time to read and think. Not to mention, write. And though I've not made the progress I had hoped for, I am yet optimistic and am thankful for the plan and structure that the reading challenge has provided.

The meager update:

I had never read anything by John Donne until last month and was stunned by the beauty of his poetry and prose. Hopefully another blog post on Donne will follow.

My teenagers have finished Paradise Lost, though mom still has two books (of twelve) to go. I'm reading this poem outloud, all 300+ pages of it. Milton's verse is that hard for me to follow. We all agreed that book IX (of XII) is the obvious climax--the fall of Adam and Eve. Milton's amplification of the temptations and predispositions which led Eve, and then Adam to eat the forbidden fruit provided fodder for an interesting discussion of the distinctions between man and woman. If my children remember even ten percent of this discussion they will be so, so much farther along in their understanding than I was when I first married!

I began Christianity for Modern Pagans; Pascal's Pensees, today and I can already tell that I am going to love this book. Though, it's really not a proper book, but rather Pascal's thoughts/fragments, organized and explained ("festooned") by the very readable Peter Kreeft. I read only 43 pages today but have already come up with a full page of discussion questions for us to work through on Tuesday. I am thinking that I will slow down the schedule for this book if the rest of it is as profitable for thought and discussion as the first 43 pages. Ah, I feel the contemplative life coming back to me!

All the other books on my list continue to be read, bit by bit. The Art of Teaching is nearly finished and I think I'll have to postpone Poetic Knowledge until a later date. Life is just too full right now. I did add one new book to my list and I finished about half of it before life errupted with unrelenting activity:

Uncle Tungsten, Memories of a Chemical Boyhood, by Oliver Sacks.

This is a fascinating book which will be part of oldest daughter's summer intensive chemisty course, just one of two or three books we will read as I attempt to add an element of poetic knowledge to the study of chemistry. Beautifully written. More when I finish.

And the challenge continues...


Seasonal Soundings said...

Oh, I just loved reading this, Melissa! Challenge it is!

Yes, Donne is beautiful. I admire you reading PL aloud! And I assume that is by yourself since the kids have finished it. Did you know that one could quote part of a line from PL and C. S. Lewis could finish the line for you? It was his favorite piece of literature.

The Art of Teaching is just one of those great books that is a re-read every year or more often. A perfect nightstand book to dip into for those minutes of insomnia.

Please be sure to post the other chemistry books you plan for chemistry. My oldest ds is a senior chemistry major and I'd love to share these with him!


P.S.: Melissa, are you still posting at WTM? There is a "desert mom" there too, but somehow, I don't think it's you. Can you clear my fog? :)

Kathleen Hamilton said...

I just purchased the Pensees book by Kreeft a couple of weeks ago. I haven't dipped into it yet, because I fear if I do, I won't be able to put it down--and you've just convinced me that this is probably so! I also plan to read Paradise Lost this year, and I can hardly wait. Funny, I know several people who have read it and hated it!

desert mom said...

Yes, I am reading PL myself as I am "behind". I read the first couple books aloud with my 15yo son to get him going. I am glad that I will be reading these books again with the next batch of children. I'm sure much will be gained by a second reading and I sometimes wonder if I've the self-discipline to read the harder works without the accountability of trying to lead my own children through them.

Thank you for the interesting fact about C.S. Lewis. I shared that with my kids today. It makes sense that he has written a lengthy preface to PL. It is available online at:

I haven't had time to read it yet but I'm sure it would be have been great to have read it before reading PL. Maybe next time through.

Kathleen, I can't remember where I read it (searched around to no avail) but somewhere in my pre-reading of PL I came across an antecdote about some literary giant who couldn't abide PL.

Janie, I had to chuckle at your request for other chemistry books that we plan to read as I think the Uncle Tungsten book was recommended by you many moons ago on the WTM boards. In yet another inspiring post you mentioned that you used Stwertka's _Guide to the Elements_, a book I had and was wondering how to incorporate into a high-school chemistry course. So, I am going to try the plan you laid out plus the Tungsten book and a couple of others: one is "The Chemical History of a Candle" by Michael Faraday and the other is a biography of Marie Curie, highly recommended by Tina who posts on the WTM High School board. Alas, practical day-to-day planning is my weakness so I hope I can pull it off.

And, no, I haven't visited the WTM boards in quite a few months and probably haven't posted in over a couple of years. Just not enough time.

Oh, and Kathleen, I know I can look forward to your thoughts on the Kreeft book...

Seasonal Soundings said...

I'd forgotten all about those chemistry posts! That was a while ago! My chemistry ds still loves Stwertka's book!

If you ever find the literary giant who didn't care for PL, please tell us.

Patti said...

I just finished Paradise Lost, too, Melissa! I read aloud with Jed. I found it very hard going myself. Part of it is the convoluted sentence structure and some of it is very hard to figure out at any given time who is doing the speaking.