HS #251 The Joy of Reading in Community with Janice Campbell and Jennifer Dow
Links and Resources:
DESCRIPTION (What is this episode about? Under 250 words, please):
Reading in community can take you more deeply into a book, and more deeply into the heart of friendship, too. If you’ve ever wanted to start a book group or wondered how to lead a class discussion on a classic work of literature, Jennifer Dow’s wise counsel can help you do both. You don’t have to know everything about a book in order to do this. Jennifer suggests that “If the goal is community and the hospitality that leads to healing, we must provide free space with clear, helpful boundaries. We must meet people where they are, at the same time offer or invite others to a vision of what can be, together, shoulder to shoulder. This expresses itself in the environment we curate, the content we behold, and the way we teach or read.” Join us to learn more about how to cultivate a reading atmosphere that leads to learning, growth, and relationship.
Ways of reading in community
- Literature Classes
- Book in a Day events — Choose something that can be read in two hours or less; come together and read it, then discuss over a casual meal, perhaps grilling together and enjoying fellowship.
- Book Clubs —Cultivate a welcoming environment that invites rather than imposes viewpoints. Offer a convivial atmosphere (preferably with good food and drink) appropriate to your group.
- Voice-recording apps such as Voxer to share book thoughts with non-local book friends.
- Essay Read-Aloud Group — Every two weeks or so on Facebook, Jennifer and friends read and talk about an essay via Zoom. You can learn more and join them at https://www.facebook.com/groups/paideiafellowship/.
TODAY’S GUEST Jennifer Dow:
Jennifer Dow is a classical teacher, speaker, and writer. Jennifer has completed the CiRCE Apprenticeship as a CiRCE certified Classical Teacher and has taught humanities, logic, rhetoric, and the fine arts since 2009. She is the founder of the Paideia Fellowship, an organization devoted to helping teachers and leaders, at home and school, teach the classical liberal arts.
Jennifer’s published works can be seen around the web, was a contributing author for The Lost Tools of Writing Level 1, published by The CiRCE Institute.
Jennifer has spoken across the nation on how to teach and encounter the classical liberal arts and hosted The Classical Homeschool Podcast, been featured on Your Morning Basket Podcast with Pam Barnhill and The Commons with Brian Phillips. Currently, Jennifer is writing her first book about the journey of classical learning and teaching, serving as the Director of the Paideia Fellowship, and researching how parents, leaders, and teachers can provide an authentic and healing classical education to all.
Jennifer, an Orthodox Christian, lives in North Carolina with her three children and enjoys spoken word poetry, trying her hand at fancy cuisine, collecting more books than she’ll ever read, and the occasional Netflix binge.
RESOURCES (Resources mentioned in the podcast episode):
- Standing by Words: Essays by Wendell Berry
- Jennifer referred to a portion of the essay, “Standing by Words” that contrasted two types of poet; one as an artist who imposes his/her emotional state on others; the other who invites the reader into a greater story
- Awakening Wonder: A Classical Guide to Truth, Goodness & Beauty by Dr. Steve Turley
- Norms and Nobility: A Treatise On Education by David Hicks
If you could choose any three books to give to a new homeschool mom, what would they be?
- Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, by Henri Nouwen
- Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
- The Liberal Arts Tradition, by Clark & Jain
QUOTES and / or BIBLE VERSES mentioned in the episode:
The content we choose should show reason at work and should be filled with those big baggy baffling questions. (Norms and Nobility by David Hicks, ch. 1.)
You can't explain everything — some things are just caught. JD
Learning and teaching are 80% mindset and 20% plans. JD
"Many of us homeschool moms feel inadequate to provide a classical education because we did not receive one ourselves. Paideia Fellowship offers a course of study to follow, and clarity on how to teach."
"I believe that Christian classical education is a vehicle that ushers humans toward deep healing and transformation. It is the birthright of every living soul to encounter this transformation and flourish . . . At the end of the day, this restructuring of priorities and a focus on the true, good, and beautiful leads to a life of wholeness and fulfillment, a life of “more than we could ask or imagine.” -Jennifer Dow
He . . . resolved merely to keep himself always before him, as a silent protest against the delusion into which he had fallen, or was falling. He remained, therefore, in his seat near the window, reading and writing, and expressing in as many pleasant and natural ways as he could think of, that it was a free place.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, ch. 18.
CONNECT WITH GUEST
Membership Site: https://paideiafellowship.com/
Virtual Homeschooling Group: https://paideiafellowship.com/pfhc
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paideiafellowship/
Free Adult Essay Reading Group & Classical/CM Edu Discussion: https://www.facebook.com/groups/paideiafellowship/
CONNECT WITH HOST:
- Website: https://EverydayEducation.com
- Blog: https://DoingWhatMatters.com
- Literature resource site: https://Excellence-in-Literature.com
- Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jcwords/
- Facebook https://www.facebook.com/excellenceinlit/
HS EP Janice Campbell
Hello and welcome back to another installment of the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Wendy Speake, and I am one of the many hosts we have here on the podcast. Each week, you'll hear from one of us, inviting one of our friends to join for a conversation about this busy, blessed season as we educate our children at home.
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Hi, I'm Janice Campbell and today I'm here with Jennifer Dow to talk about reading in community. As 2020 has unfolded and we find ourselves at home more than ever, new ways of being together have opened up. I've wanted to be part of a reading group for years and haven't found one near me. But just this month, the ??? group has begun to form and I'm excited to get involved.
Perhaps you've been wanting to read literature in community too. So, today, our guest is Jennifer Dow. She's a classical teacher, speaker, and writer who's had a lot of experience reading in community and out. As a Circe certified classical teacher, she's taught humanities, logic, rhetoric, and the fine arts since 2009. She's the founder of the Paideia Fellowship and that's an organization that helps teachers and readers at home and school teach the classical liberal arts. So she writes, she teaches, she speaks, and today, she's here to help us understand what it means to read with others and how we can make it happen in our own lives.
Hi. Thank you for having me. This is wonderful.
It's really fun to talk to you, as always. And, as for getting started, the first thing I wanna ask you is, as you think of reading, what are one or two books that have made an impact on your thinking or your way of life? And that's books you've read at any age.
Yeah, I love this question. So, the two books that came to mind first was, Piercing the Darkness and This Present Darkness, I was thinking, childhood, what...which ones affected me the most. And, these two books, my mom gave me when I was a teenager and I was really wrestling with whether I wanted to be Christian or not. You know, what do I want for my faith, and I've always been a person that wanted depth and mystery and all of those things. And, honestly, at that time in my life, I wasn't really seeing that in Christianity. It just seemed like no depth. And you know, from my teenager perspective...and she gave me these two books, and for whatever reason, these two books, by Frank Perretti, talked about the, you know, the world that we're in. But then this parallel spiritual world. And it fascinated me so much and it really opened my eyes to, maybe there was more mystery and depth than I had thought. And it just captured my imagination and it really kind of, I guess, saved me. You know, for lack of a better word. It drew me in. It drew me into want to explore that more. So, definitely had an impact on my thinking, and captured my imagination. And I was really grateful for those two books, yes. Yeah.
And teenage years are so important to find those excellent books. And, even if they're not, like, fine literature, they can be something that is the necessary thing for right then. And any others, as an adult perhaps?
Yeah, so one that came to mind in...as an adult was Tale of Two Cities. And there's kind of a funny story behind this one. So, originally, I was supposed to have read it as a teenager, and my youth pastor at the time was really interested in this book. And I don't know why, I decided to lie and say that I had read it, but I lied to my youth pastor. And said that I had read it, and I hadn't. And then, as an adult, years later, I felt bad and like, oh, I need to come clean. So, I email him and tell him and he's like, it's okay, Jen. Not to worry. But then, I end up reading it, actually, as an adult. And I'm teaching it in one of my classes. And there were two big things that really transformed my thinking. One of them was, and if you've read it, you know there's this man who's put in prison for nineteen years. And he comes out and his daughter is charged with recalling him to life, is the phrase they continue to repeat, over and over again, throughout the work. And she's just, not really sure what to do or how to do that, and so one of the family friends aids her, stays with often, will even stay with the dad as he goes on this journey of healing.
And, it raises this question of what is possible in terms of our world in other people's lives, in recalling people to life. Cause in many ways, you know, that's the work of Christ. That's the work of the Holy Spirit. But is there something we can do? If so, what? What are the limits and possibilities of this, and it really just explored this concept? One of my favorite scenes was when the daughter gets married. And she was hesitant to get married. She didn't' wanna leave her dad. But she decides to go and so, Mr. Laurie stays with the doctor who is the father. Well, she's on her honeymoon and he has kind of a relapse into his psychosis. Because he was not sane when he left the prison, and understandably so. And, he sat there and he...it was...he intuitively knew that he couldn't say anything to the doctor to get him out of his delusions. And, all he did, and the line goes something like this: he sat by the window, read, and wrote, and then all...and basically...and give a silent protest that this indeed was a free space.
And so, this idea of silent protest that by the way, I live the way that I sit, the way that I read, the way that I write, that it is a silent protest. That this indeed is a free place and we don't have to be captive to our illusions. And that hit me like a ton of bricks and I was all, you know, when I was in college, I studied apologetics and I wanted, you know, it was gonna explain the truth to everybody. And I just...there was part of a huge transformation for me. But there's not...you can't explain everything. Some things are just caught. So.
I love that. I...you know, that's a really amazing quote. I have not, actually, have not looked at Tale of Two Cities since probably high school age. And I really do need to go back and read it, cause I'm...that reminds me, what a compelling book it is. And that's something that books can do. They can bring an idea to life. The idea of being. That silent protest, free space, and all of that, and books like that that are so powerful, do you think they're better read alone or in community, or is there arguments for doing both?
Yeah, I think there's definitely arguments for doing both, because we are communal beings. But at the same time, we have individual lives. In fact, I'm doing some research on friendship and reading this one book about...it's an anthology of the philosophers on friendship. And one of the introductory essays, he's talking about the tension between the altruistic and the egoistic, so our desire that relate to ourselves. And then, the desires to move outwards towards our fellow man and how they can seemingly be in conflict with each other. But they both have a legitimate place in our life. So I don't think it's a either/or, I think it's a both, and.
Nice. So, what sort of settings have you had the opportunity to read in community. I mean, I think we mentioned that and a lot of people immediately think "book groups", but what else is there? I mean, we've probably both encountered it in other places.
Yeah, so, first thing that comes to mind, of course, is literature class. I teach high school and you know, I have other teachers who teach other grades, and then homeschooling, so you know, lit class around the kitchen table, or wherever your schoolroom is. So, literature class. Also, there's something a friend of mind introduced me to that I have loved. I attended hers then I started doing my own and we called them "Book in a Day" events. One of the things that's hard about a book club...I don't know about anyone else, maybe you're the rule follower who always gets the reading done, but I struggle. I struggle to get the reading done and then I'm like, the walk of shame, I'm sorry I didn't do the reading, am I allowed to come? But I really want community, so there's this, ah! You know? And so book in a day events. You don't do any reading beforehand. You show up, everyone has the books, and you read out loud. So you select, either, you know, a book. It could be an essay. A shorter work. It could be a work...anything that you can read in about two hours or less allowed.
And you...and I guess you could do a little bit longer, but a little...more...further than two hours, it starts to just drag on. Especially if you're reading aloud in one sitting. You read aloud and you take some breaks in between reading aloud, and then you cook good food together and hang out and just fellowship. And so usually we grill something good, and just talk with each other, and whatever else you wanna do. And it's really great. And, because there's cooking and grilling involved, oftentimes, it will be the only kinds of events that husbands will end up coming to. So, we see a lot of husbands being willing to come to Book in a Day events, cause they can grill, and you know, nobody has to read out loud. You don't have to come to the table with some brilliant thing to say. You can just come as you are. Even better if there's a fire pit involved. You just let people be who they are and make it okay.
I love that. I've never had...I've never even heard of a Book in a Day event. And I think it sounds fabulous. I hope you have a blog post somewhere that kind of outlines that whole thing.
Well, I don't, but that's a great idea. I should.
Yeah. We would definitely like to look to that.
So, of course then, the traditional book club is another way that we've done, you know, I've done that. Just decide on a book to read and we, you know, read through it and then get together and talk. Whenever I've done book clubs, I always try to include food, because that just seems to make, you know...and then, just take away the shame of, if you haven't read, it's okay still, come. The only place I require reading to be done is literature class, because I'm responsible for holding you accountable but if I'm not in that role, then you are an autonomous being. Do what feels good and what you can do. So, we're all adults here. We're not into shaming. We're gonna just not do that.
So, and then, the last thing, and this is actually something I'm doing right now. Paideia Fellowship, my company, has a free Facebook group and pretty much, it's a essay read aloud group. So every other week, we choose and essay to read aloud. We try to pick one that can be read in thirty minutes or less. And then we discuss it. You know, and then we have our drink of choice, and we read, and we discuss, and it's a lovely, lovely time. So far we've read a collection Wendell Berry's essays. We've read Simone Wheel on the right use of school subjects with a view to the love of God. The longest essay title I've ever experienced, right? We've also read some C.S. Lewis. Learning in Wartime. And right now we're reading through a modern essayist. Her name's Zady Smith. And so, we're having a lot of fun with that, cause usually we read old stuff, right? In a class for education, and so we're expanding our minds and that's been challenging and amazing too. So, just read a variety of essays. An essay is just a different kind of work. And so it's fun to experience something new.
yeah, and I've wanted to come. I've partially signed up. At least checked interested on several weeks of it, and then it conflicts with a class I'm teaching at church and so it's like, no, no! Cause we use to just do the class, not over the summer, but things got pushed with everything else getting pushed with the virus and all, so. It's just popped up every single time so far. But I'm gonna be there one of these days.
I look forward to it. We'd love to have you.
It's so much fun. I've read the essays, anyway, which has been great.
I like your choices. So for those of us who haven't had a experience reading with others, or if you have, and you would like to consider leading a group, or whatever, what are some of the things you would suggest?
So, I think the biggest thing is to pay attention to what in your mind are your ideals and then what's reality. So, if you're like me, or a visionary, you know, you have this ideal in your head and you think it has to look a certain way. We hold on so tightly to our ideals. It reminds me, I think it's a ??? quote, where he talks about if you love your ideal of community you'll destroy community. But if you love the people in front of you, you'll create community. And so, not everyone has to worry about this difficulty, but you know if you're the kind of person that does. You trust in idealism and visionary stuff is a beautiful, beautiful thing and we need that in the world, but that's one of the limits of that. One of the temptations is to focus on that instead of what's going on.
So what does that mean? Well, if you only have two people who are interested, well that's okay. It doesn't have to have fifteen people. And you can still choose to have joy in the people that are interested in joining you. Also, if everyone has a lot of little kids, and so you have this vision of this deep, intense study, I don't know very many moms who are homeschooling, especially, and have a lot of little kids, who have found, you know, there's a few, I know, but not very many, who have found the brain space to do deep, deep stuff in addition to homeschooling. One option might be reading a book together that you're doing in your homeschools. So you're doing some prep together and you know, you're also getting together. Also, the book in a day, especially if husbands are involved, that's a great option. You can have some of the teenagers babysit. Just make it a communal thing, and if you're a group that kinda grows up together, it becomes part of your culture, and just like, hey this is...and then your teenagers see adults reading and discussing, and it's really powerful. So those are some options.
And I think another thing is, if you don't have people locally, you know, I have a couple friends who, there's a couple books I'm reading I love to, you know, discuss ideas. We just text each other. I just read this chapter, what did you think about this, you know, this idea? This quote? We also use Voxer and I can just record myself. It's an app that allows you...it's kinda like a walkie talkie app. You can record yourself and then whenever the other person has time, listen to it, and respond, so you don't have to figure out the same time you're available to get...you know, we all are free at different times. So that works really well too. it's just like figuring it out, you know? Like, how can I get this in?
So those are some of the logistical suggestions I have.
I was thinking about, like, I know you mentioned the space has an impact. And I do believe that because, you know, at other times in classrooms and things, there have been atmospheres that were conducive to sharing an atmosphere that shut people down. And same, you know, same way in a former church of mine. You...it wasn't safe to share. And I think that's...it has to be safe depending...even, you know, whether you're dealing with kids or adults, you know, whether it's a class, or just a friend group. And so I think it's important to address that whole issue of atmosphere, environment, and what you're creating there to make, make the sharing good.
Yes, absolutely. I completely agree with you. One of the things I talk about when I train my teachers and this applies to, if you're reading...gonna lead a group with adults or in the classroom, is creating a hospitable space that leads to healing. And that applies to adults, to students. They may look a little bit different. You know, with adults, you're not, they're not accountable to you like a student is, but it includes two major aspects. An open and free space, and boundaries. So, if you think about it like a home, or even a playground, you have an open and free space to play. This playground, you can do whatever you want on it. But then, there's maybe, a fence around it, so then you don't go off into a...you know, maybe there's woods, where maybe there's ticks, or something like that. And so you're protected from dangers. And there's also boundaries like, hey, we're not gonna hit people. We're not gonna...so, then people feel safe to freely play. And if you know, somebody does. Usually there's a parent by that can mitigate and make that thing, or you know, help with that conversation.
So, in reading, reading groups, exploring ideas, we need the same kind of environment. An open and free space where we can wrestle. Especially when we're reading literature, or we're reading in contemplative ways. You know, I'm very involved in the Charlotte Mason Classical education style of teaching. And so, one of the things we place a high value on is really wrestling through these books in a slow and contemplative way. A way that allows us to be changed by these books if we can. Not just learn what the author is saying, but be changed by them. And so one of the things that has helped is by thinking about that like a friendship. If you're gonna build a friendship with somebody, and I'm sure we've all had a friend like this in the past, where they're like they just tell you everything to do. They're very bossy. You know, and you just don't really enjoy hanging out with them, right? Other's not this open and free space to have your own thoughts, to be where you are at, and as teachers, how often do we do this? And moms. I know I did this for a long time. I was so afraid my kids would, quote-unquote, believe the wrong thing, that I imposed my will on every thought they had and every experience they had, as though I needed to be the Holy Spirit for them. Like, my God didn't love them more than I did. You know? I think that's just...I don't know or you know, what...and so, it's creating that atmosphere where...and then on a practical level, they're not gonna get laughed at. They're not gonna get interrupted. They can ask any question without being shamed. You know, one of the base things that makes a classical education classical is general curiosity. And that includes all questions are on the table. We can entertain questions without accepting, you know, the ideas as dogma. We can entertain questions without accepting that as, oh, this is what I believe forever. And so, that free space to do that.
You're right. That is one essential thing that I think has been the enlivening force behind any successful reading in community that I've ever had the chance to do. It's the freedom to speak and also those boundaries that impose...well, they protect the freedom, really, is basically what they're doing.
You mentioned something that I wanted to pop back to really quickly. You mentioned healing a couple of times and, talk to us a minute about the part that reading can play in healing and that healing space and I know that that is something I've very...has been very real to me, through fiction, nonfiction, but, especially through literature. So talk to us a minute about healing and books.
Yeah, so I guess I will have to reveal a little bit of my...this...it's kind of...for me, and this it's a little personal, but I'll share it. For me, I view sanctification very similar to the idea of healing. So, as I grow closer to Christ as I progress in my spiritual life, I see it as the Lord healing me from false assumptions, the lies I believed, you know. Whatever I'm struggling with, it's some sort of disconnection from what is real. And so this healing, this awakening to what is real, what is more aligned with Christ. What's more aligned with reality. And so, healing and books relate to each other in two ways, in my mind. First of all, the way that I teach how to read and the way I practice reading myself, cultivates a mindset and a way of being that is the same pattern and way of being, required for repentance and growth in Christ. It's a learning how to come outside myself, hear what the author is saying, and responding to it appropriately. And because it's a work of literature, it's a little more removed from my life, so it's not as hard to deal with. And the more I practice that, the easier it is to then respond to the Holy Spirit when I'm faced with something I need to come outside of myself, hear what the Lord is saying, and respond to it appropriately. And so it's a habit of mine that's practiced and helps me.
The other thing is, is when we're reading books that are complete with truth, goodness, and beauty, and raise the questions, at Paideia, we call it the common human experiences for the common human questions. It doesn't matter if it Homer or Virgil or Siddhartha. Or like, whatever book it is, the books that are classics, one of the marks of them is they raise the common human questions and ideas, and they cause me to face these things and wrestle through them and by wrestling through them new stuff is brought up for me to deal with, for me to learn. New perspectives on life. On God, on reality. And I then am faced, if I'm gonna be a responsible reader, to wrestle with them. To think about them, To ask, okay, this is a new idea, what do I think about that? And with integrity and humility, give it a fair, you know, a fair hearing. Then, and that's been incredibly transformative, and I all, and so both of those things inform that healing process. I've experienced in my life, I've seen my students experience it. And it's a beautiful thing. So, yeah.
I love that. And I found, so much of that true in my life too. Just the whole Charlotte Mason Method of teaching, also, cultivates that curiosity, but also the attitude of humility when you approach those great works and you can learn. You can, your affections can become more ordered through that reading and it does draw you closer. So that, that is such an amazing experience. That's why books are so much more than just entertainment, reading for fun, all of those things. They're fun. And they can entertain. But, so much more often, they can teach, they can nourish, and a part of our lives. I love to read. I guess you can tell that. And I know you do too.
So, talking again about the whole environment thing. You mentioned a Wendell Berry quote about inviting versus imposing, and you mentioned that who concept, and I want to make sure that our listeners capture that idea.
Yeah, definitely, so in Wendell Berry's collection of essays, Standing by Words, in the essay, called, also, Standing by Words, he's exploring two different poems and this idea... and he's looking at what is, I guess the best poet. And he compares two poems and he's saying, poets were artists that imposed their emotional state on people, versus poets or artists that invite the reader to a grander narrative. And so, he's, he has a lot of different ideas about that and I won't go into all...the whole discourse, but definitely, check out the essay if you want. But, then there's this one line, and he says, one imposes and one invites. And as...and then he begins to talk about the effect that has on the person listening. That got me thinking about rhetoric.
You know, I teach, one of my favorite classes to teach is rhetoric. And the first part of that persuasive discourse is that invitation. Some people like to call it hook, you know, and that sort of thing. And we have a big discussion in my rhetoric class that says, you know, we're gonna not do that. We're gonna not hook people. You know, we have a responsibility, just like, you know, money is a wall. You can use it for good and evil. Well, rhetoric is a wall, you can use it for good or evil. And I have the power to choose to hook someone and impose my will on them, and manipulate them into following me and believing what I'm gonna believe, or I have the power to see the person as the divine image, honor their agency, and invite them. When we don't honor someone's agency, we're...I see it as an extreme harm. Christ Himself, God Himself, gave us free will. And He...and we're individual beings. Learning... there's a difference when you're a toddler and you're about to run out into traffic. Yes, I'm gonna impose my will on my toddler and get them out of the street. But when it comes to learning, wrestling with ideas, coming to terms with an idea and believing something, it must be of the child's own free will that they encounter it.
And as teachers, therefore, one of the biggest skills we need to cultivate is the art of inviting. And so, when we invite readers, one simple way that can happen is, if I'm going to say, read, the Iliad to the class. Maybe we can talk about the idea of glory and honor. We say, what comes to mind when you think of glory and honor. And we just have an hour-long discussion about what comes to mind and then I transition and say, this book that we're about to read has a lot to say about that. I wonder what Homer is going to teach us and reveal about these ideas. So, now, they're personally invest. They know that they can come to the table with this conversation and they're invited in. And so I'm honoring their autonomy and agency. And this is hard because sometimes students will refuse to engage. And what do you do? Well, yeah, I can make them do their worksheet, but they're not learning. And you know, and, you know, that's probably another podcast episode about how to deal with that. But, if we want real learning to happen it must come by means of an invitation that a student accepts. They're little, little adults. YOu know, they're children, but they're little humans. Humans, fully humans, that...and to honor their agency is highly important.
I do think that's a critical thing. And, knowing that, when you are immersed and steeped in the content that you're inviting them to consider, it helps to have that to give them an introduction. Just mentioning, talking about the character qualities that you mentioned. Not character qualities, exactly. Virtues. That is a really good entree, and I had not thought of that specifically, and I can even see where that would get the more reluctant talkers to talk. That has been, you know, for the teenage, younger teenage group, especially, it's been a challenge at times. They thought, eventually, that it would be a challenge, but what else do you have about the content that you choose for the kind of book group that you would consider, or even the one-day thing? The Book a Day?
Yeah, so, I think we mentioned a couple things that this whole idea of truth, goodness, and beauty...and if you wanna explore that concept more in-depth, there's a book called, Awakening Wonder, that Classical Academic Press sells, and it's a discussion of these ideas of truth, goodness, and beauty. And it's a wonderful book. It's slightly on the scholarly side, but it's not out of reach. And so if you're a reader, I'm sure you can...that would actually be a good group discussion book, to be honest. Also, Charlotte Mason talks about living books. And then, David Hicks, to give a third comparison, in chapter one of Norms in Ability, he talks about the content that we choose should show reason at work. And be filled with those big, baggy, baffling questions. And so here's an example, I think...it's easy to see it in, say for example, a history book. So, you could read an excerpt about Alexander the Great from pretty much any history book on ancient times.
Or, you could...and it might give you facts, like, this is when he lived. these are the wars he fought in. This is what he's known for. So, you get some good information about this dude, (this guy, sorry) I hang out with teenagers a lot so…this guy. But this dude... or, you could hear a story about how he lived. You know, something like Plutarch's Lives. And you see him almost making decisions. This is one of the things that makes a book like Augustine's Confessions, so powerful. We get inside information on his processing. And how he came to make a decision. We get insight into the inner logic of what got him from point A to point B, that is like, gold. Anytime you see that in a book, grab that book up. That is literary and you know, nonfiction gold right there.
And so I think seeing those kind of things. But then, things that just cause you to be ushered into a world that is just beautiful. And good. Like, you know, we were talking about fiction, you know, we're...it's very different than Augustine's Confessions, or another nonfiction book, but something like The Lord of the Rings, it just makes you wanna live in that world. And, there's something about...and you know the fiction we're talking about. A lot of them are classics. Right? They're classics for a reason. There's actually an article I found, and I'll give you a link to it, but it talks about what makes a classic a classic. And it's probably my favorite article that I found. She gives some really good pointers for, oh, these are the facets of what makes a classic a classic. And you start to understand, oh, I get it. Okay. So, I'll share that with you as a service. A help.
Thank you so much. Yeah, that'll help a lot and I got a couple quotes here that I'm going to bug you about so we can put em in the show notes at the very end. So, we've talked about a whole lot of things, and one of the things you mentioned that puts people off is having an ivory tower vibe, and making things super academic-sounding. But some of the works you're talking about reading, Homer, or other works like that, are big scary works for a lot of people. How, for adults who find those things scary. People that are not in your class, that you can't...but you want...that are wanting to approach these things. How do you...do you get them started in the same way you would a class full of teenagers?
In a lot of ways, yeah. I think the first thing is my...so, one of the things that I think is really important to remember is that learning and teaching is 80% mindset and only 20% plans. And so, so there's several different mindset things that we can keep in mind as for approaching. So this ivory tower vibe is like, I'm so important because I read these fancy things and nobody can approach me and I'm going to look down my nose at you. And all this stuff. You know, I remember one time, it was the first year that our homeschool co-op had grown so much that we had to find a church. And this one mom, she was so scared, because her daughter had accidentally brought in a My Little Pony coloring book to our co-op, and she had this idea that we were all these classical people. And that we would shame her somehow. And of course, we all just laughed hysterically, and we're like, do you know, what goes on...and so, I think we have this idea that everyone is more classical. You know, the bowties and Bree and Bach and that's all, you know. Because, let's be honest, that is how it's portrayed, right? And a lot of places. And I think you have to find your people. Like for example, just throwing off the mindset of classical education, real classical education, is about becoming a free person. The seven liberal arts are the arts of truth perception.
And they're, it's a way, it's a mode of inquiry, each of those seven liberal arts is a different mode of inquiry. It's a way of approaching life, it's a way of exploring. You could practice that mode of inquiry with a children's work of literature, like Winnie the Pooh, or Wind in the Willows. Or, you could practice it with Siddhartha. Or you could practice it with Sundiata, an African epic. Or, you know, something from the east. We also have this idea that everything has to be a Western classic. Personally, and there are some people who would disagree with me on that, but I reject that notion. Whatever work of literature that you want, you know, it, whatever part of the country, maybe, you're from, or if you want to give a richer experience with your heritage to your children, do it. Do it. And there's so much more freedom and space than we like to think. And so, it doesn't have to be the Iliad. You're not under obligation to read the Iliad. Now, do I think everyone should? I think it's a wonderful book. I loved reading it. But, there's not this imposition that you have to read it.
So, take a breath. Go follow your interests. What are you interested in reading? Having that mindset. And honestly, just stay away from the groups that would like to shame you for not reading the "right" books. Just stay away from them. Because there's plenty of free spaces of people who just love ideas and want to move towards this freedom of, in our humanity and in Christ. So just stick with those people. That would be my recommendation.
Also, another podcast, who really is great about...in fact, it's probably their tagline...rescuing things from the ivory tower. The Literary Life podcast. Their way of approaching books is, I love listening to them. I've learned a lot from both of them about reading so.
I know. Podcasts have been such a blessing because I think a lot of people have discovered reading but had no idea what it was other than seeing what happened next. I mean, literally, I cannot tell you how many people I've heard say that they graduated from high school, had not having a clue how to read. I wouldn't say that even I knew how to read, although I read incessantly, it's one of those things you have to be in a thinking space as you're reading. And I think that's probably my personal reading tip. Just be a thinking space, if you are reading a book heavy with ideas, and you know, do you read as...do you read more than one thing at one time? I mean, I always do.
I am always reading more than one book at a time. I usually have, even cause I have, I'm reading for different reasons. And I apologize if you're hearing the ding. I don't know how to turn off the ding on my computer like your... you know, my messages are...
I know, I've been clutching my phone cause it keeps vibrating. I'm sorry.
That's alright with me! That's not Janice, she's perfectly professional! I'm the one that's dinging. Yeah, so I'm always reading more than one book. Like, right now, I am, I'm reading a really hard...so I, I'm doing the 20 in 20 challenge with Literary Life. And so, one of the selections was a book that's intimidating, that you wanted to read, but you keep avoiding. So, the one I chose was A History of Political Philosophy. Cause it's a topic I hadn't explored a ton. I really wanted to learn about it, so. And that also came by recommendation of Josh Gibbs, who's another great person to follow about teaching.
So, I'm reading that. And I'm reading one just for fun, that a friend recommended, that I'd never heard before. It's called Love in the Time of Cholera. And we just, you know, we just are reading it and hanging out and talking about it. And then I just finished Henry Nowan's book, Reaching Out, which, oh my gosh, if you're a teacher, ah! This is my new manual for living and reading and life, oh my goodness. So good.
I love his work. I just, I was looking, you know, I was looking through my shelves for one of his books that has been particularly meaningful to me. And I'm thinking, I seriously need some way to Google my bookshelves.
Yes! We should like, just do a week-long project this summer just, you know, putting all our books in Good Reads, so we can search them, cause then, and you can scan it with the app, if it has a bar code on the back, you can just scan it. Anyway. That's off-topic. But, yes, I understand. That would be so perfect.
Yeah, now I know.
Yes. So, and, you know, then I'm, of course, I have a stack of books about friendship, cause I'm writing about friendship right now. And just, whatever I need them for. And I don't put pressure on myself to have to finish in any particular amount of time. I just go at my own pace.
That's what I've done as well, and I just to feel guilty about having so many things going at a time, until I read the Charlotte Mason's admonition to have, you know, multiple things, an easy book, a stiff book, as she put it, and you know, a couple of other things. And so that's being good. You mentioned friendship is a form for reading well.
Talk about that just a little bit.
So that's kind of my pet project. I was, you know, it came about cause I do a lot of training for homeschool moms and you know, as homeschool moms, we tend to feel really inadequate, especially if we're classically teaching because we feel inadequate to teach this way cause we didn't receive one. And so, I know that homeschool moms are completely capable of teaching in this way. And they're incredible. But how was I going to help them see that, and then give them a form they could tap into that guides their teaching practice? And so I realized...and so, looking at friendship, I believe friendship is a form that parallels the journey of learning anything. Anything. In fact, if you follow this, you know, I call him three movements of friendship. By following three movements of friendship or comparing learning to friendship, you can learn to teach anything under the sun. And so, the first is, play date. Like, what do you do when you meet somebody for the first time? Where are you from? What are your favorite colors? You know, depending on your age, the questions will vary. If you're a homeschool mom, what curriculum do you use? You know? And then we're off to the races. It's just, you know, the introductory information, then you just enjoy your time together. No pressure. And you walk away from that and you just kinda have this sense of how that felt, just a general sense of that person from that first encounter.
But then you're like, maybe I like them. Maybe I wanna get to know them more? So, now you start applying intentionality to...and time, and vulnerability and all these things that are required if you're gonna cultivate a friendship. And you apply them intentionally so that you can get to know this person. You make sure to put them on your calendar, cause you're like, I want to become friends with this person. And over time, as that happens, you can become really good friends. You know, maybe you even become best friends. Maybe they become like another sister to you? But only as a result of the fruit of the work that is done. And so learning something new is the same way. There's always the awkward introductions. You know, and this is, this goes back to your question about, you know, how to think about reading the classics if you've never read them. Well, everyone feels awkward when they meet someone for the first time. And some more than others. You know, you're like, okay, I don't know what to say. Are you gonna like me? Well, you know when you meet Homer, you're like, I don't understand what you're saying. That's a lot of weird words. And why do you take so much time preparing your food? Like, I don't get it. That's normal. That's exactly how it's supposed to be. It's the playdate. It's the introduction. It's the first meeting, so learn a little bit about him. Where was he from? How did he view life? Like, what are the things I need to know about Greek history and that culture so that I can hear what he's having to say from him, from his perspective. And then, go to work. Read through that book. Be attentive. Learn to hear what Homer is saying. Come outside yourself and listen. What would a friendship be like if you just listened to yourself the entire time? If, instead of being quiet and listening to this person in front of me, I'm just repeating my own self back to me. I'm building a relationship with myself, not my friend. Not the book. And so it's the same skillset. The same mindset, that is required in building a friendship as it is to learn. So then as a reader, we can compare that process to the reading process and be like, okay, where am I at? I'm totally confused and this is awkward. Oh, I must be in the playdate, you know? The introductory. So, what kinds of things should i do now? Well, I should probably...if I'm confused, learn some about the author, you know. Maybe reach out to somebody who knows this book well, see if there's some tips. If I don't feel that anymore and I'm like, okay, I'm moving through this book, well, then it's just about an endurance. And continuing to do the same things as you move through the book, looking for those symbols, those motifs, those, you know, those types of things.
And then to the extent that we open ourselves up to that experience, will be the extent to which, you know, revelation, and transformation, is possible. Not every book is gonna transform our lives dramatically. But we will never experience the possibility of it if we don't open ourselves up to it, and do the due diligence in light of that. And so, as teachers then, it's our goal not to do that process for the student, but coach them in that process. Come alongside them and you know, just like, how would you coach your kid if they were, you know, making a new friend? Well, just, go, you know, the same kinda thing. Same kinda questions. Same kinda demeanor.
Right. I love that. I think the best analogy I've heard in a lot time for the whole process of getting acquainted with a book and falling in love with it. IN a sense, we as teachers are gonna be inviting our students further up and further in, as it says in Narnia, and it's just, it's a beautiful journey, and I've, you know, I love that. And the whole process of starting to teach in community, I think the counsel that you've offered has been most helpful as well.
So, as we're coming to the end here, if you could choose any three books to give to a new homeschool mom, what would they be, and why?
Okay, sounds good. And I do wanna mention, if people are interested in learning more about this way of teaching, we do have a membership site, at Paideia Fellowship, where they can learn. These...
Okay, can you spell Paideia for them?
It's P-A-I-D-E-I-A fellowship.com. So check us out. So, three books. I would choose first, Reaching Out, the Three Movements of the Spiritual Life, by Henry Nouwen. I think that book parallels this idea of friendship. It talks about this hospitality that leads to healing. What I love about it is that it gets at the mindset, heart set, things that are needed, that we need to face as teachers, as humans, to teach really well. And because I believe teaching is 80% mindset, I think that's the first work we have to do.
Second, Siddhartha, by Herman Hessey. I think that it is a good fiction book that expresses that journey. He goes through so many different things and you see him change and respond. And there's this one particular scene where he's at the river, it's his death and resurrection moment in the story, and he, he's at this river and he wakes up and he has this huge amazing revelation about the past and the future and where he is, and how all of that interacts. And I think it's a beautiful embodiment of how we can view our students. That, you know, to release some of the anxiety about what we hope they will become and what they are now. It's really helpful picture to hold onto when we're scared about, you know, what, they're stealing cookies, but you're supposed to be a virtuous man, like what's going on? What do I do? So that kinda thing.
And then lastly, The Liberal Arts Tradition by Clark and Yon, and it's published by Classical Academic Press. and it gives a really good overview of the seven liberal arts and it gives a really good introduction to how to think about them. It doesn't get so much into the nitty gritty of how to teach them, but again, it's how to think about them. Because if you are thinking about these things correctly, in like five minutes, somebody can give you the plans, and you'll know what to do. But if you have all the plans in the world, and you don't have the right mindset, you'll continue to struggle with implementing it.
I think that's a wonderful insight, and that's a great selection of recommendations. It's funny that the reaching out was the Henry Nouwen book that I was looking for in my shelves. But, he's one that I keep longing out. And I have a feeling that he's on somebody else's shelf at the moment, and I hope I get him back. I have not read Siddhartha yet, but I will add that to my list. Okay, that's great, because my...to be read pile is incredible. It's teetering, let's just say.
Is there anything else you'd like to say to our listeners before we wrap this up?
Just thank you so much for having me here. And I just wanna encourage everyone, like we've already talked about, that there should be no shame in this. If you're in a community or a group that is, you know, has this shame culture, of you have to do these...I would just...you know, find a different community cause that is not everywhere. And there's no way to learn and grow as a person if we're under this oppressive shame. Like, we can't do it. It's impossible. And if the Christian life is about healing, about becoming fully alive, well, it's kind of an opposition to that calling, so. Yeah. Just wanna thank you so much for having me.
I am so delighted that you came. I have loved talking with you and as always, I learned new things. Or I learned new ways of expressing ideas that I believe with all my heart and so, for our listeners, I hope you've enjoyed learning more about reading in community with Jennifer. I'm excited to start on my new book club journey, and I hope you're feeling encouraged and equipped to begin it too. So I wish you joy in the journey. You can connect with Jennifer at PaideaiFellowship.com, and of course on Facebook and various things, and you'll find those, that information in the show notes. And you can connect with me, Janice Campbell, at EverydayEducation.com, and of course, on social media as well. We both offer homeschool help at our websites and we hope you'll stop by for a visit. And we thank you for listening.
Thank you for joining us this week on the Homeschool Solutions Show. As always you can find show notes and links to all the resources mentioned at homeschooling. mom. I hope you'll take a moment to subscribe to the podcast and if it was especially meaningful to you, share it with your friends via email or social media. This is just another way we can all encourage and love and support one another.
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