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John Senior's List & A Question

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    John Senior's List & A Question

    I have a question that I really don't know where else to ask. Over the last two years I have been reviewing, reading, and thinking through John Seniors list of 1000 'Good Books'. IF I understand correctly, it was his belief that most of these books ought to be read before university, or, more to the point, before beginning The Great Books. In my opinion, he had good cause to see the need for the 'Good Books' first. If he is to be taken seriously, though, I have to think through what this actually looks like.
    Each family and child has their own situation; For us, our child has 11 years of listening and reading before she graduates from high school. 1,000 books divided by 11 years equals 91 books per year. 91 books divided by 52 weeks is 1.75 tomes per week. If we estimate each book to take approximately 10 hours to read (which I believe to be on the very low end of the average), then we are looking at 17.5 hours per week, or, depending on how many days you read to your child each week, approximately three hours per day. Did John Senior envision the lives of students and parents as being thus committed to reading?
    There is a lot to be said in the way of literacy development through picture books and the rereading of any well-written works. There is much more to the literacy conversation than racking up hours. Yet, IF Senior is to be taken seriously...was he implying this level of dedication to daily reading?

    #2
    I think you have to make a distinction between taking something seriously and taking something literally. It's just like when Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven: he didn't really mean we should forgive a specific number of times, but he used that idea to signify something else he had in mind. So it is with Senior's 1,000 good books and 100 great books. The numbers themselves are arbitrary in a way, and symbolic in another. What I mean is that it wouldn't be wrong to come up with two lists of different lengths from his, so we must not focus on the numbers themselves. What's important is to get the true meaning behind the numbers and their relationship to each other, and in this way we can draw some conclusions to guide our actions:

    - that there is a hierarchy of value, so that many things are good, but much fewer are great
    - that there is a long preparation, that begins early in life, to read foundational works later in life
    - that if you don't start early in life, you may still want to start with some good books before moving to great books
    - that, once you reach intellectual maturity, you should give priority to the great books, and forget what is not even good

    and so on. So don't take the list as a "checklist": it may prove an impossible challenge anyway, with some titles out of print or very difficult to find, etc. There is also something to be said about personal preferences. And as you rightly say, rereading and discussion are all part of the process: it would be a bit weird if Senior had not been aware of that, right? It just doesn't sound right. So it's not that if you don't read all of these 1,000 books you're doomed. Again, this is not a matter of computation, and to me it looks like you're already grasping what he's trying to do with the lists - no need to worry about checking all the boxes.
    DS (14) and DD (13): MPOA and MP, mostly 8th grade
    DS (6): a mix of K resources, MP and not

    Comment


      #3
      While that's totally possible in absence of other American pastimes like sports, clubs, dinners outside the home, television and media consumption, travel, family illness, robust and imaginative play, etc, I think if one were to attempt this, they'd all be a blurr by the time one graduated. That's why MP has a depth over breadth approach. I'm pretty sure every book MP uses is on that list, but MP doesn't schedule every book on that list.

      My eldest is a voracious reader. She read three novels in one Saturday. And she often reads one entire chapter book per night after her MP3 schooling. However, the more recent lockdowns have facilitated this because there isn't much else to do. When life is in full swing, she averages 200 pages a day weekend or not. I also like the CM (and admittedly MP) approach of reading a chapter per day to let the themes sink in. And it's easy when 1.75 "tomes" equal something like Little Lord Fauntleroy; it's not so easy reading almost two of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. Nor should one want to!

      I also believe one should have a life and live it. Without life experience, the grand themes have nothing in which to anchor. Experience defeat, jealousy, anger, the waste of revenge, persistence in the face of adversity, compassion, gratitude, humility, loving kindness, grace, mercy, forgiveness. Spare time for service to others. A good story never replaces the thrill of actually living life.
      Mama to 2, Married 18 years

      Summer:
      DS 6-MPK with SC1 Phonics & Math
      Fall 2020
      DD9-4A

      Comment


        #4
        I’m going to agree with Mrs. Bee that you don’t have to take the 1000 literally. You want consistent exposure to the good to prepare for the great. Kolbe Academy puts out a list of Recommended Reading that was originally based on John Senior’s list. But over the years I found that many of the books on the list could not be obtained without paying dearly. About ten years ago (roughly) I put together a Family Reading List. I combed through lists from MP, Kolbe, John Senior, Martin Cothran, the Robinson plan, Aquinas Academy, and many others. I picked out every book that I would hate for my kids to miss, and it ran to approximately 250 books. The books had to be in print and not too expensive. It does not include picture books (I have a separate list for those and one for poems) or series books or current fiction. The first three authors on the list are R.L. Stevenson, Beatrix Potter, and A.A.Milne. The last three are Aristotle, Cicero, and Seneca.
        Each child (with the exception of the autistic one) has their own copy of the list, and they like to check them off as they go. Some are read as part of literature and history studies, but many are just for pleasure. They read extensively outside of the list (even with extracurricular activities) as well, because we don’t have television. They can jump around in the list and go out of order, and I’m not too worried if they don’t check off every one. One kid can’t get enough Dickens; another can’t stand Dickens. The boys never seem to want to find out what happens to Anne Shirley when she grows up. Everyone loves Animal Farm, and when another kid starts reading Little Women, you just wait for them to come tell you that Beth died. You would never get them to read just a chapter a day of anything other than a dry textbook. I tried out the CM way — they just snuck the books and read ahead anyway. But they will go back and reread the books they like.
        I’m guessing if you averaged it out, they read 2 hours per day outside of school work. One teen did stay up late to finish reading Crime and Punishment (not assigned) in one day, because he really wanted to see how it ended.
        At the other end of the spectrum, we have the severely autistic kid who can read, but hates reading unless it involves Disney characters and is illustrated. He helped to show us that books are to be read, not worshipped.
        All this to say, don’t sweat the numbers. Balance the reading with the living.

        Blessings,
        Jude
        DD 23 College grad, married, employed.
        DS 20 Autistic, beautiful, unemployable.
        DS 17 HS grad. Twelve years of MP. Hopes to be a chess-playing priest.
        DS 15 Teaching me to give up the reins. Does MP work when not in ballet classes, at rehearsals, stretching or playing chess.
        DD 13 Nine years of MP. Chess player, marksman, WSJ fan.
        DS 10 Six years of MP. Chess player, ballet dancer, archer.
        DD 8 Four years of MP. Chess player, occasional dancer. Actually gets to write in the Student Guides.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by Jessica Louise View Post
          I have a question that I really don't know where else to ask. Over the last two years I have been reviewing, reading, and thinking through John Seniors list of 1000 'Good Books'. IF I understand correctly, it was his belief that most of these books ought to be read before university, or, more to the point, before beginning The Great Books. In my opinion, he had good cause to see the need for the 'Good Books' first. If he is to be taken seriously, though, I have to think through what this actually looks like.
          Each family and child has their own situation; For us, our child has 11 years of listening and reading before she graduates from high school. 1,000 books divided by 11 years equals 91 books per year. 91 books divided by 52 weeks is 1.75 tomes per week. If we estimate each book to take approximately 10 hours to read (which I believe to be on the very low end of the average), then we are looking at 17.5 hours per week, or, depending on how many days you read to your child each week, approximately three hours per day. Did John Senior envision the lives of students and parents as being thus committed to reading?
          There is a lot to be said in the way of literacy development through picture books and the rereading of any well-written works. There is much more to the literacy conversation than racking up hours. Yet, IF Senior is to be taken seriously...was he implying this level of dedication to daily reading?
          I find it unlikely that Senior meant that a student should read all 1,000 of these books. His point was that the mind needs a foundation of myths and fairy tales, stories of adventure and romance and all things human in order to really comprehend the Great Books.
          His book, Restoration of Christian Culture, is a fascinating read. He places a great emphasis on music (as in the muses - all the arts) and gymnastic (physical exercise, especially out in nature), skills of the home, and worship. Reading plays a role in this, but it's just part of a bigger picture.
          Amanda - Mama to three crazy boys (7A, 6M, 2), classics major

          "Non nisi te, Domine. Non nisi te" - St. Thomas Aquinas

          Comment


            #6
            Our family has been working from a different K-12 list for years. It is definitely not a 1000 books, lol, but it is the list we've chosen. I doubt we read it all before dd graduates from high school It's on my kitchen table right now because dd and I are reading and talking about a couple that are on it. I'm pretty sure all of MPs high school books are on it, but it's completely aside from our homeschool studies. Choose or make a list you like. Use it to create a conversation, but don't let it stress you out.
            Bean. Long time MP user.

            DD- 9th grade aerospace enthusiast. Using a mix of dual credit, online and classical materials for 2019-2020. 10th- All AP & dual enrollment courses for 20-21.

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