18 July 2007

Getting Started (better late than never, right?) :)

Ok. So, now that I'm all settled in, I've started reading The Well Educated Mind. Lots to think about so far. I'm liking where she's going with the focused thinking. And by the way I totally support learning from her experience. The story she told about being a grad student with a family.. not so fun.

So I've read the first two chapters. I got the impression that she has no love for television or the Internet and she seems to fear the demise of print. (which I think is a little over dramatic) On page 16 she says, "Much has been written about our present move away from texts, toward an image-based visual culture: Schools no longer teach reading and writing properly. Television, movies and now the Web have decreased the importance of the written word. We are moving into a postliterate age. Print culture is doomed. Alas." Yes, the typical tv show is a lot of brain numbing nonsense, and Internet information is not generally printed and bound, but I really don't think that books are going anywhere.

However, I do like her idea that "reading is a discipline" very much. On page 17 she says reading is "like running regularly, or meditating... Any able adult can run across the backyard, but this ability to put one foot in front of another shouldn't make him think that he can tackle a marathon without serious, time-consuming training."

This idea that "serious reading" is to be worked up to gives me hope. When I graduated from college I set out on a quest to read more classic books. I read a few, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, but then went back to the nice and easy fantasy that I've always liked so much, sort of resigned that classical books weren't for me. And non-fiction.. spare me the pain.

However, I like that Susan Wise Bauer has set out this plan, an outline, to aid in the process of immersing one's self in literature.

Now, to acquire a journal to organize my thoughts better, gotta get on that..........


Ritsumei said...

Yay you!! I actually went and got the book from the library again, so I could peek at the stuff that she's got to say & remember what it is that you're talking about.

I suspect that the reason that she fears the demise of print (like how you say that, btw) is because lots of schools are using "whole language" teaching methods, rather than "phonics" teaching. I'm pretty sure that I learned with whole language, and Mom's kindergarten class is mostly whole language. Anyway.

Phonics is your rules-based "sound it out" type of learning to read. And there are quite a few rules. I learned some - the sounds of the individual letters, but it's also the i-before-e-except-after-c and ph=f sort of sounds & spelling rules. I think I had some spelling books that mentioned those once, but it was never emphasized & it made no sense at all at the time. In spite of all the weird exceptions to the rule, English is supposed to be 90% regular.

Whole language is Mom's "sight words" - they memorize words as they meet them. If they happen to run into a phonics rule, they teach it. If not, no big deal. She says in the Well-Trained Mind (and you have to remember that she's a HUGE phonics lady) "This guessing game is labeled 'developing phonemic awareness.' It's also called 'whole-to-parts phonics instruction' because the student is given the 'whole' (the entire word) and only later is told about the 'parts' (the letter sounds) that make it up. Granted, it's an improvement on pure look-say, which never lets on that there's any connection between words and teh letters that make them up. But whole-language teaching still encourages children to guess." (page 226)

The problem with the whole-language stuff (according to Bauer & other phonics people) is that because kids have to memorize words as they meet them, for the vast majority of kids, they never become truely fluent readers, and things like the Classics just drive them crazy. I think there's more to it that that: take your Jane Eyre or P&P, for example. There's a lot of archaic language & old fashioned culture going on in those books. There's obsolete words & weird customs. But if you don't read well to begin with, the strangeness is just overpowering. Hence the end of the printed word as we know it.

However, I think you're also right: Books ain't on the endangered species list yet.

Notebook. I went and bought a notebook. It's one of the 100 page 1-subject jobbers with a plastic front cover & a heavier back cover. Walmart. $3. It's getting close to 1/2 full now & holding up beautifully. Or you could get a fancy actual journal.

Other things in my notebook that keep it from getting to be too much of a dust collector: "copywork" - that is, cool quotes & scriptures & things, written in my best handwriting. I've been using it to develop some fussy fancy cursive, cuz it makes me happy. It's working: I've been getting complements on my pretty writing. (You can now commence to laugh at me cuz I'm being vain about my *writing*.) Also, it's got notes that I took on things like articles I read in the Ensign & even scriptures that I was studying for my sunday school class. This week I also included a list of everything that Monkey & I ate trying to decide if he had a food issue that was making him spew. (We ended up deciding that it was the flu.) That way, if it gets to being a long time between when I look at the music book, and it's been quite a while, the notebook is still part of my every day stuff & bugging me to get back to work. So then I do get back to the "serious reading" from time to time and it doesn't become just another forgotten project.

Ritsumei said...

Oh. And we also have this blog. For thinking commenting & all that stuff. But a notebook is also nice.

Ritsumei said...

How's the reading going?