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Teenagers and classic literaturePosted Friday, December 14, 2012, at 3:20 PM
One thing I've been doing this year is assigning classics for my high schoolers to read. We have some friends in New York that started an online discussion board, and so we are using it for a long distance book club. They have two weeks to read the book, a week to discuss it, and then another week to write an essay about it.
Joy, my freshman, is in that phase of life where everything is boring. Apparently cool people like her are not allowed to express interest in reading, unless it's The Hunger Games. Unfortunately for her, The Hunger Games have not been around long enough to qualify as a classic, plus she's already read it. But despite her attempts to fool me with her practiced bored looks, I know she's secretly enjoying the books I've picked out for her. Anyone who enjoys The Hunger Games would love the part in Island of the Blue Dolphins where the little brother gets eaten by wolves, or the part in Christy where Lundy Taylor gets typhoid. Now if I can just break her of writing essays where every sentence contains the words "like" and "stuff," I will be satisfied.
Jay, on the other hand, is my literary geek. This is the kid that taught himself Elvish in his spare time just for kicks. He's in his sophomore year and has always loved reading. He always has an interesting (but sometimes dubious) fact to impress people with. Several years ago he told my little brother that if you stand on the side of a house and touched the electrical wires you would not get shocked because you would not be grounded. Today he's been telling me about the surface of one of Saturn's moon and how it is literally smoother than a baby's bottom. I'm never quite sure if the things he tells me are actually true or not anymore, but he says everything with such confidence it's hard to doubt him.
So for Jay, getting to read and count it as school is a dream come true. He loved Robinson Crusoe so much he went out and read the sequel on his own. I didn't even know there was a sequel. Right now he's working on The Grapes of Wrath. Admittedly, I've never read that one myself, but I did watch the movie. Jay says it's pretty weird. He was telling us yesterday that the author describes a plow in phallic terms as raping the earth. Everyone laughed, although I'm sure most of my kids had no idea what he was talking about. My youngest piped up and said, "My favorite animal is a cheetah!" so I know he was clueless.
I think it's important to learn the classics. There are so many references to them in modern culture. Who would understand what Big Brother was if they'd never read 1984? There are references to other classics inside the classics. The Swiss Family Robinson makes references to Robinson Crusoe, for example. My favorite example is Veggie Tales, with those adorable hillbilly grapes that drive around in that old jalopy singing, "We are the Grapes of Wrath. We never take a bath." By requiring my kids to learn the classics, I have high hopes that my kids will grasp some of these finer points in modern culture. At the very least, they will be able to truly understand Veggie Tales.
Homeschooling -- The Next Generation
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