In Common – August 9th Edition

In Common is my (mostly) weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I’ve been slowly working through The Well-educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. While there is a lot in this book that reminds me of How to Read a Book – and in fact SWB not only mentions Adler’s book on several occasions but does go into the different levels of reading – I love how she devotes a chapter each for several book genres.

In each chapter, she goes into some detail about the genre itself, and then specific suggestions on how to read books in the genre. Finally there is an extensive annotated book list.

I am currently working through Chapter 7, which covers History books.

“The overall task of the historian isn’t just to tell you what happened, but to explain why: not just to construct a bare outline of facts, but to tell a story about them.” The Well-educated Mind

SWB gives a thorough overview of periods of History writing, covering Medieval and Renaissance history, Enlightenment, as well as so many -isms that have always tripped me up, such as Relativism, Positivism, Progressivism, Post-modernism, and others. I feel better equiped to tackle History titles having read her introduction.

“History was not meant to serve any sort of ideological end. It was meant to find the truth.” The Well-educated Mind

SWB’s annotated list is extensive – she lists in order of time period written, earliest to most recent, starting with Herodotus’s Histories and wrapping up with Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man.

I am finishing up Math and Magic in Camelot this week, so look for a review soon. I am really enjoying the story as well as all the additional activities and information included.

Current Reads:

 

In Common – July 11th Edition

In Common is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I’ve got several titles I’m trying to finish up this month. I’ve been working on my school plans for the Fall, so my personal reading has really been pushed to the side these past few weeks. I’m behind schedule, as usual, so we’ll see if I reach my goals.

I couldn’t help myself – I added another book to the pile. I saw it recommended somewhere – maybe Goodreads or Instagram and started it this month. Fluent Forever by Gabriel Wyner – the author really breaks down the process of learning a new language – what works and doesn’t work.

Wyner stresses practicing recall for learning a new language – writing down or saying from memory what you have studied – rather than just studying over and over.

“When you study by reading through a list multiple times, you’re practicing reading, not recall. If you want to get better at recalling something, you should practice recalling it.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

Seems intuitive, but it’s a study skill that is applicable in any subject really. He recommends using flash cards, and specifically a study method called Spaced Repetition Systems – what the author refers to as flash cards on steroids.

Another point he stresses is to stop translating. So often our foreign language learning attempts have this middle step. If we are learning the word cat, we may see a picture of a cat, the English word CAT, and then the word we are learning, GATTO, as an example. But your brain has to go through this extra process of translating. It is more efficient to see the cat and learn the word gatto.

“By throwing away English, I could spend my time building fluency instead of decoding sentences word by word.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

One more area the author stresses is the importance of learning proper pronunciation at the beginning – you don’t get bogged down with broken words (words that we think are pronounced one way but are actually pronounced another) and we also learn to distinguish between similar sounds, known as minimal pairs (the author use the examples of R and L in English for a native Japanese speaker – their ear isn’t trained to distinguish the R and L sounds as separate).

“If you have better listening comprehension, you’ll gain more vocabulary and grammar every time you hear someone speak your language.” (Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner)

One thing that I am loving about this book is the detail and research presented in this book. It’s not just a book of Do This, It Works! The author goes into a lot of detail of why and how it works. How our brains hear language and recall information. It’s very thorough.

I did manage to get in some other reading this week.

This week I have been working on the July chapter in The Life-giving Home. Sarah Clarkson writes about the importance of story in developing our own character.

“Literature is humanity’s ongoing conversation with itself about what it means to be human, to be good, to live with meaning.” (The Life-giving Home, Sally and Sarah Clarkson)

Sigh. There is my motivation for reading good books, and ensuring my children are surrounded by good books.

Speaking of good books – I’ve got a stack of books arriving over the next couple of weeks as I get ready for the new school year – I look forward to sharing our curriculum plans soon!

 

Current Reads:

 

In Common – June 14th Edition

In Common is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

I continue to progress slowly through my June stack. I’ve fallen behind in my Don Quixote reading – I had hoped to be further along but I think I overloaded myself this month. But small steps are better than nothing.

I am really enjoying Don Quixote. It is such a funny story, and I so love the dialogue. I was laughing out loud throughout Chapter XII, where Pedro the goatherd is telling the story of the broken hearted shepherd Grisostomo to Don Quixote. Pedro keeps using the wrong words and Don Quixote corrects him several times, to the point of annoyance, but always followed with a gracious compliment of the man’s storytelling skills. After the story is finished, Don Quixote, having been invited to attend the funeral of the deceased shepherd, responds:

“I shall be certain to, ” said Don Quixote, “and I thank you for the pleasure you have given me with the narration of so delightful a story.” (Don Quixote)

I am currently reading about autobiographies in The Well-educated Mind. This has never been a genre that has caught my attention, but this particular chapter is really winning me over.

“You no longer read an autobiography to find out the truth about past events (an assumption that governed the memoirs of political retirees for decades). Rather, you read autobiography to find out what it’s like to see the world from another point of view, from inside the skin of another person.” (The Well-educated Mind)

Susan Wise Bauer suggests the book The Timetables of History as a reference tool. I’m ordering it this week and look forward to utilizing this resource. Amazon allows you to peek inside, so you can see how the tables are set up, with time periods along the left side and columns containing significant events in several categories including history and politics, literature and theatre, music, religion, philosophy and learning.

I continue to enjoy Educating the Whole-hearted Child. So many gems in this book! Concerning reading and language arts:

“the single best way to strengthen your children’s minds is making sure they read lots of good books.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

And this comment about raising readers:

“Do everything you can to cultivate in your children a love of books. Give them their own copies of special books they read on their own, illustrated storybooks that capture their hearts, series of books that they especially enjoy, classics that every child should have, informational books about subjects that are special to them, and even books that they are not quite ready for but will be soon.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

And finally:

“Be generous with books. It is an investment that will return hundredfold rewards in your children’s lives.” (Educating the Whole-hearted Child)

I’m pretty sure that Clay and Sally just told me to go buy a lot more books. Done and done!

Current Reads:

 

In Common – May 31st Edition

In Common is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

This past week I snuck a reread into my stack – The Awakening of Miss Prim. This is such a delightful read, and full of goodness and inspiration for simple living and spiritual growth. I absolutely love the pace and quality of living in the village of San Ireno de Arnois.

“Nowadays, to live quietly and simply you have to take refuge in a small community, a village or hamlet where the din and aggression of the overgrown cities can’t reach; a remote corner like this, where you know nevertheless that about a couple of hundred of miles away, just in case, ” – he smiled – “a vigorous, vibrant metropolis exists.” The Awakening of Miss Prim

The children in the village learn the basics in the village school (the three Rs) but then continue their education at home and with others in the village, in an intimate setting.

“They’re being brought up with good books so that later they can absorb great books.” The Awakening of Miss Prim

I’ve continued with my slow reads, including Educating the Whole-hearted Child. This week’s focus was on discipleship study methods. One point that really stood out was the importance of keeping the Bible as the primary source of Bible study.

“The incessant fragmentation of Bible content into booklets, condensations, Bible stories, Bible products, software, websites, greeting cards, Biblezines, ad infinitum unfortuntately trivializes and devalues Scripture rather than making it more valuable. “ Educating the Whole-hearted Child

I am slowly working through The Fourth Turning – it is so full of minute details I can’t imagine going at any faster of a pace. The premise, that human events in history are cyclical, is just fascinating.

“What happens to each generation separately is only part of the picture. Of more importance to history is what happens to generations together. They age in place in a manner that Francois Mentre described as ’tiles on a roof’ – overlapping in time, corrective in purpose, complementary in effect.” The Fourth Turning

My slow reads continue. I’ve also taken on two more books this week, reading along with fellow book clubbers. Don Quixote (I am reading the newer Grossman translation), as well as Locke’s Second Essay. I’m just getting starting on these two so look for commentary starting next week.

Current Reads:

 

In Common – May 17th Edition

In Common is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

This week I continued to make progress in my reading stack.

I worked through Chapter 1 of A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe. This is a fascinating read so far. Each chapter digs into the math and mystery of the numbers 1 through 10. Chapter 1 is all about the number one, or the monad.

In the first chapter, the geometer’s tools – the compass, the straightedge and the pencil are described. My excitement to try out the compasses in my new geometry tool kit (it came with three!) seems inadequate compared to the fact that:

“The Medieval geometers contemplated the compass as an abstract symbol of the eye of God.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe

Even the simple task of sitting down with tools to make the most basic of shapes, the circle, carried a greater significance.

“Pencil and paper translate divine, eternal ideas into symbols accessible to the geometer’s sight.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe

The monad, the circle, also represents the cyclic nature of everything, from the simplest to most complex biological system, even to the rock cycle.

This part of my reading tied into another title I am working on, The Fourth Turning.

This book is examing in great detail the cyclic nature to historical events. The authors discuss this concept of a circle of time, the wheels of time, with each cycle:

“represented by a circle, symbolizing perfect and unbreakable recurrence. Nearly every primitive or archaic society came to see sacred time as rounded.” A Fourth Turning

Much of the book (so far as I can tell being four chapters in) covers the saeculum, the recurring cycle of history that runs the average length of a lifetime (approximately 100 years). The saeculum is divided into four parts, represented by four generations within the hundred years.

“Roughly once every twenty years, America discovers a new generation – a happenstance triggered by some striking event in which the young people appear to behave in ways manifestly different than the youth who came just before.” A Fourth Turning

This is a fascinating book, but it is packed with information and details – thankfully there are a lot of tables to help keep things straight – so I am moving through it slowly.

This week I let myself enjoy some lighter fiction reads. I finished up Waking Gods, the follow up to last year’s Sleeping Giants. I enjoy epistolary novels – and this would fall into this category. The chapters are mostly transcripts between an unnamed man who is quite influential in a shadow government sort of way (think Cigarette Smoking Man in X Files…) and the main characters, or transcripts of mission logs.

It is an interesting writing style. You don’t get descriptions or details to animate the story in your head, other than what you can glean from the transcript conversations. This might seem like a limitation, but somehow it just “works.”

I see that there are audio book performances of both books now, which could be a lot of fun, since the one complaint I have about how the author formats his transcripts is the lack of speaker notation (who is saying what), the back and forth in conversations are really just distinguished by hyphens. Usually I can follow pretty well, but on occasion if I leave a chapter and come back, I have to orient myself again to the conversation to see who is saying what. An audible performance wouldn’t have this problem.

I also started back up my reading in the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh, reading Conspirator. This long-running series has several trilogies and a new book is about to be released. I’m two trilogies behind and working to catch up. It is very easy for me to get totally immersed in her writing though, so I am pacing myself. I definitely had a couple of rough mornings this past week as I had to read just one.more.chapter.

Current Reads:

 

In Common: May 10th Edition

In Common is my weekly Commonplace roundup – notable quotes from the previous week, and current reading list.

This has been a hectic week at home, and so I haven’t made as much progress, page wise, as I had planned for my weekly schedule. But I did manage to make significant progress in my fiction read, Waking Gods, and got off to a good start with A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe.

This week I worked through the Introduction in A Beginner’s Guide, and it was pretty awesome.

This is also not just a book for reading, but for doing. I have ordered a geometry set to use as I work through the book (and my kid’s aren’t allowed to touch it!). I know we have compasses and set squares for use in our math lessons, but I want a set all my own, for my own scholarship.

“Both Pythagoras and Plato suggested that all citizens learn the properties of the first ten numbers as a form of moral instruction.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe

I am finding this book goes along well with my other read, The Fourth Turning, which examines recurring cycles that occur in human history.

“When the lessons of symbolic or philosophical mathematics seen in nature, which were designed intro religious architecture or art, are applied functionally (not just intellectually) to facilitate the growth and transformation of consciousness, then mathematics may rightly be called “sacred.” A Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe

 Most of my May reads are my “slow and steady” titles, but I have The Beginner’s Guide, as well as a couple of fiction reads I hope to get to this month.

Current Reads:

 

In Common: Sleeping Giants

IMG_2964I’ve been juggling several books – education philosophy books, history books, parenting and theology books.

I haven’t sat down with a Sci-Fi book, just for fun, in months.

I’ve just joined the Litsy online community, and my first day there a post about a new book, Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel, came across my feed.

I saw several posts about this book and my interest was piqued. I placed an order that night and my book arrived just a couple of days ago.

This book focuses on a presumed alien artifact that was unearthed almost two decades ago, and how the person who accidentally discovered it comes full circle to be the lead investigator in its origins and meaning.

I.am.hooked.

I am really enjoying this book and I am especially glad it’s the first in a series!

I tend to fall in love with characters and storylines and hate when they end after only one book.

Written as a collection of interview transcripts, journal entries, newspaper articles and mission logs, this format just works. And it is a creative way to tell the story from multiple points of view.

An excerpt from an interview with the main character, Dr. Rose Franklin:

And you now know what it is we are looking for?

– I haven’t the faintest idea. But I think that’s a good thing. I think those who looked at it before failed because they knew too many things, or so they thought.

Sometimes we need to step back from our weightier reading selections and just enjoy some fiction. This is my book treat!

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Commonplace Books

I do a lot of highlighting and jotting notes as I read, and while I would love to flip through them regularly to see some of the more important things I have noted, realistically I can’t see that happening with any regularity.

I have tried a few different methods to record notes. While I use Evernote for a lot of record keeping and writing, I am still very much a paper-and-pencil type of person when it comes to jotting down notes. I have always found the physical act of writing things down the best way to retain information. So when I decided I needed to not only highly and take notes in the margins, but to also transcribe significant points, I needed to set up a commonplace book.

A Google search for “commonplace book” will result in a slew of examples. It can almost seem overwhelming how to get started.

While I considered using a 3-ring binder or an Arc notebook so I could keep notes from the same books together, I ultimately decided I wanted a hard cover bound book. I set up my notebook the same way my lab notebooks were set up when I was still working as a scientist. After picking a journal (I opted for a jumbo journal that cost $5…), I made sure to set it up completely before recording my first entry.

I set up a Table of Contents section at the front, with each line already labeled with page numbers. Following the Table of Contents, I numbered 300 pages, making sure however to leave pages in the back out of my numbered count to serve as an Index. Each page in the Index is labeled with a letter – while entries on each Index pages will not be in alphabetical order, at least each page will be organized by letter.

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Here are a couple of things I am doing to make sure my commonplace book serves its purpose as a repository for quotes, inspirations, contemplations and questions:

I have worked out a “system” for my highlighting and note taking so that I can skim through after I finish a chapter and transcribe the important points. I keep a pencil pouch on hand when I am reading, with a full set of highlighters. Each color represents something – a point that I want to put into action in my own life, a word or term that I need to look up to further understand, an author or book reference to follow up on, and one color is used to highlight points that are especially significant or important in some way and that I want to transcribe to my commonplace book.

I have made sure to have my book organized and set up for optimal use before I put any writings into it. My Table of Contents, page numbers, and Index pages are all ready to go.

For each page’s entry, I put the title of the book and a short description of what that page’s particular notes are about at the top of each page. This also is written in the Table of Contents.

I don’t wait too long to transcribe! It’s too easy to lose track of what I intended to record in my notebook. A short session a couple times a week is sufficient to keep on top of my note taking.

These are some commonplace book resources that I have read and found interesting.

Self Made Scholar

Thought Catalog

The Atlantic

I hope this encourages others to consider keeping a commonplace book as well!