A couple of weeks ago I posted about self improvement and the 5-foot shelf, a collection of books gathered by Harvard's legendary president, Dr. Eliot. I wrote in that post that I was going to test his premise that 15 minutes a day spent reading these classics could provide you with an adequate liberal education.
Well, I got about 75 pages into Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and realized I needed some help. The last time I did serious reading of this type was back in college, and then I had a great group of professors to expound, elucidate and explain. Now I've got me, and I am a poor substitute.
Classical education to the rescue.
I have been looking into classical education for a while now- the concept of schooling being broken down into three sections of grammar, logic and rhetoric. I am partly interested because my wife and I (mostly her, lets be honest) are homeschooling our kids, and partly because I want to incorporate some if this into my teaching career.
As I looked into resources I came across A Well Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had. Here was a book that could help me get through the ambitious reading project I got myself into. Author Susan Bauer provides a primer on how to attack a book that is not easy reading, largely modeling her method on Mortimer Adler and his classic How to Read a Book.
Not only does she give a battle plan of sorts, but she then provide specific things to look for in each genre of work. Taking her advice I am restarting my journey through The Great Books with some fiction, as this is the most accessible. Don Quixote is first up.
I will also be journaling, using a slightly modified version of Bauer's traditional commonplace book. I am using Tumblr to keep my quotes, note and questions. I am purposely not including a link to this (yet) as I don't think my rambling notes would really be of interest to anyone - except maybe my psychiatrist, if I had one that is.
Hopefully this second stab at The Great Books will be a bit more successful. I am the type of person who thrives when I have a specific plan in place, an A Well Educated Mind has provided that for me. As I have written before, leisure time should be spent on quality self improvement if one is to have the necessary background to truly develop virtue, hopefully my Great Books Project will help my own quest.