Posts filed under ‘Education/Homeschooling’
About eight years ago, someone recommended to me the book list in How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler. So I got the book from the library and scanned the list into my computer.
It was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The list has provided me with untold hours of great reading and will, I’m sure, continue to do so for many years to come. These books are shaping who I am as a person. They are giving me a liberal education.
Of course these days you don’t have to go to the library anymore to get Mortimer’s list. Here it is, free on the internet:
- Homer: Iliad, Odyssey
- The Old Testament
- Aeschylus: Tragedies
- Sophocles: Tragedies
- Herodotus: Histories
- Euripides: Tragedies
- Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War
- Hippocrates: Medical Writings
- Aristophanes: Comedies
- Plato: Dialogues
- Aristotle: Works
- Epicurus: Letter to Herodotus; Letter to Menoecus
- Euclid: Elements
- Archimedes: Works
- Apollonius of Perga: Conic Sections
- Cicero: Works
- Lucretius: On the Nature of Things
- Virgil: Works
- Horace: Works
- Livy: History of Rome
- Ovid: Works
- Plutarch: Parallel Lives; Moralia
- Tacitus: Histories; Annals; Agricola Germania
- Nicomachus of Gerasa: Introduction to Arithmetic
- Epictetus: Discourses; Encheiridion
- Ptolemy: Almagest
- Lucian: Works
- Marcus Aurelius: Meditations
- Galen: On the Natural Faculties
- The New Testament
- Plotinus: The Enneads
- St. Augustine: On the Teacher; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine
- The Song of Roland
- The Nibelungenlied
- The Saga of Burnt Njál
- St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica
- Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy;The New Life; On Monarchy
- Geoffrey Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales
- Leonardo da Vinci: Notebooks
- Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy
- Desiderius Erasmus: The Praise of Folly
- Nicolaus Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
- Thomas More: Utopia
- Martin Luther: Table Talk; Three Treatises
- Francois Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel
- John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion
- Michel de Montaigne: Essays
- William Gilbert: On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies
- Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote
- Edmund Spenser: Prothalamion; The Faerie Queene
- Francis Bacon: Essays; Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum, The New Atlantis
- William Shakespeare: Poetry and Plays
- Galileo Galilei: Starry Messenger; Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences
- Johannes Kepler: Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Concerning the Harmonies of the World
- William Harvey: On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; On the Generation of Animals
- Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan
- René Descartes: Rules for the Direction of the Mind; Discourse on the Method; Geometry; Meditations on First Philosophy
- John Milton: Works
- Molière: Comedies
- Blaise Pascal: The Provincial Letters; Pensees; Scientific Treatises
- Christiaan Huygens: Treatise on Light
- Benedict de Spinoza: Ethics
- John Locke: Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Thoughts Concerning Education
- Jean Baptiste Racine: Tragedies
- Isaac Newton: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Optics
- Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: Discourse on Metaphysics; New Essays Concerning Human Understanding; Monadology
- Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe
- Jonathan Swift: A Tale of a Tub; Journal to Stella; Gulliver’s Travels; A Modest Proposal
- William Congreve: The Way of the World
- George Berkeley: Principles of Human Knowledge
- Alexander Pope: Essay on Criticism; Rape of the Lock; Essay on Man
- Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu: Persian Letters; Spirit of Laws
- Voltaire: Letters on the English; Candide; Philosophical Dictionary
- Henry Fielding: Joseph Andrews; Tom Jones
- Samuel Johnson: The Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; The Lives of the Poets
- David Hume: Treatise on Human Nature; Essays Moral and Political; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau: On the Origin of Inequality; On the Political Economy; Emile, The Social Contract
- Laurence Sterne: Tristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy
- Adam Smith: The Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations
- Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason; Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals; Critique of Practical Reason; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace
- Edward Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Autobiography
- James Boswell: Journal; Life of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D.
- Antoine Laurent Lavoisier: Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry)
- Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison: Federalist Papers
- Jeremy Bentham: Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust; Poetry and Truth
- Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier: Analytical Theory of Heat
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: Phenomenology of Spirit; Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History
- William Wordsworth: Poems
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Poems; Biographia Literaria
- Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice; Emma
- Carl von Clausewitz: On War
- Stendhal: The Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma; On Love
- Lord Byron: Don Juan
- Arthur Schopenhauer: Studies in Pessimism
- Michael Faraday: Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity
- Charles Lyell: Principles of Geology
- Auguste Comte: The Positive Philosophy
- Honoré de Balzac: Père Goriot; Eugenie Grandet
- Ralph Waldo Emerson: Representative Men; Essays; Journal
- Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
- Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
- John Stuart Mill: A System of Logic; On Liberty; Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women; Autobiography
- Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography
- Charles Dickens: Pickwick Papers; David Copperfield; Hard Times
- Claude Bernard: Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
- Henry David Thoreau: Civil Disobedience; Walden
- Karl Marx: Capital; Communist Manifesto
- George Eliot: Adam Bede; Middlemarch
- Herman Melville: Moby-Dick; Billy Budd
- Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov
- Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary; Three Stories
- Henrik Ibsen: Plays
- Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace; Anna Karenina; What is Art?; Twenty-Three Tales
- Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Mysterious Stranger
- William James: The Principles of Psychology; The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism; Essays in Radical Empiricism
- Henry James: The American; ‘The Ambassadors
- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; The Genealogy of Morals; The Will to Power
- Jules Henri Poincare: Science and Hypothesis; Science and Method
- Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams; Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
- George Bernard Shaw: Plays and Prefaces
- Max Planck: Origin and Development of the Quantum Theory; Where Is Science Going?; Scientific Autobiography
- Henri Bergson: Time and Free Will; Matter and Memory; Creative Evolution; The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
- John Dewey: How We Think; Democracy and Education; Experience and Nature; Logic; the Theory of Inquiry
- Alfred North Whitehead: An Introduction to Mathematics; Science and the Modern World; The Aims of Education and Other Essays; Adventures of Ideas
- George Santayana: The Life of Reason; Skepticism and Animal Faith; Persons and Places
- Lenin: The State and Revolution
- Marcel Proust: Remembrance of Things Past
- Bertrand Russell: The Problems of Philosophy; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits
- Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain; Joseph and His Brothers
- Albert Einstein: The Meaning of Relativity; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics
- James Joyce: ‘The Dead’ in Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses
- Jacques Maritain: Art and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism
- Franz Kafka: The Trial; The Castle
- Arnold J. Toynbee: A Study of History; Civilization on Trial
- Jean Paul Sartre: Nausea; No Exit; Being and Nothingness
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The First Circle; The Cancer Ward
Here in Ireland we had a rather bad start to the new decade: As of January 1, the Blasphemy Law is in effect.
That means it is now illegal to say anything that is ”grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”
My family and I came to Ireland because we sought freedom in relation to homeschooling. But if anything, I’m even more passionate about freedom of speech than about freedom of education.
Not to mention that religious people can be very quick to regard something as blasphemy and take deep offense. After all, some of the things Jesus said were considered blasphemy by his fellow Jews.
Doesn’t the above description fit Jesus all too well? According to the Gospels, Jesus definitely said things that were “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion.”
Has the Irish government forgotten that most essential aspect of Jesus’ life, namely the fact that he was crucified – crucified for having offended religious sentiments?
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that a country that claims to be inspired by Jesus now takes the side of his opponents. But, alas, history is full of such irony, not least Christian history.
Here are some amazing (and very sad) facts:
I just learned that by the time the average American graduates from high school, he or she has watched 360,000 ads on television. Yes, three-hundred-sixty-thousand.
The majority of these are food ads, and now here it comes: 95 % of the advertised foods are actually unhealthy. Speak of nutritional education, or rather indoctrination. A bad ad or two might not influence a person right away, but thousands and thousands of junk-food ads? Who can withstand that kind of brainwashing, especially as a child?
Clearly, laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t have the answers here.
Why we left our social network in Germany and moved to Ireland
My wife Connie is an American from Colorado. As a child, she was deeply interested in the world around her. She loved animals, wanted to know more about science, felt great empathy for the plights of other people, and became a ferocious reader. But her family was dysfunctional, and she spent much of her childhood in day care or at school. There, her lively mind and sensitivity for others seldom helped her. She never belonged to the “popular” girls and grew steadily more dissatisfied, both socially and intellectually.
At thirteen, she met several homeschoolers who came from functional families and made a very positive impression on her. Not only did Connie envy them; she also decided that she would like to try homeschooling with her own children one day.
Accordingly, when Connie and I got married, homeschooling was one of our main topics of discussion. Then we had our first child, Sophie, and her personality was remarkably similar to Connie’s. I became convinced that, at least in Sophie’s case, homeschooling was probably the best option.
The only problem: We lived in my native Germany where homeschooling is a crime. That was unfortunate, since Sophie and our two other children enjoyed being close to their Oma and Opa, not to mention the many good connections we had in Germany. Life went well, except for the cloud of mandatory schooling looming on the horizon.
Connie was especially shocked that whenever she mentioned homeschooling as a viable alternative to school, most Germans said something to the effect of: “Really? That’s allowed in other countries? Well, they are lagging behind a bit, aren’t they? I’m sure soon they’ll catch up and have mandatory schooling, too.” There was so much prejudice against homeschooling that it was hard to even engage in a reasonable conversation about it. To many Germans, it seemed hardly comprehensible that you could have mandatory education without having mandatory schooling.
This prejudice among Germans included the authorities, school officials, and teachers. I myself was an art teacher in a private school, so I have nothing against schools or teachers in general, but it was hard to find teachers who were willing to question the system.
Anticipating the severe troubles that would likely follow if we committed a crime in the eyes of the law by attempting to homeschool in Germany, we decided to leave our social network there and start a new life in Ireland. Unfortunately, this did not spare us from Sophie having to attend special German classes just before we moved. But that’s a long story …
And speaking of stories, I just published a book that relates to our situation. It’s called The Gobblestone School: A Tale Inspired by the German Criminalization of Homeschooling – a children’s story somewhat in the vein of Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory etc.). Just in case that’s your type of thing.
Chapter 1 – The Horrible Gobblestone
“Did you say something, Simon? I couldn’t hear you. Speak up!” Mrs. Gobblestone roared from the front of the class. “Mouse, Simon. The text says mouse, not moose! … There was a period at the end of that sentence, Simon. You read it as if the sentence had just continued on. … Stop stuttering, for goodness’ sake! … There you go again—stuttering! Stop it! I can’t stand it! You’re an embarrassment to this class, Simon! I’m very glad I’m not your parent.”
Although Simon agreed with Mrs. Gobble-stone’s last statement, the rest of her tirade did rather upset him. The frightening effect was undoubtedly aided by Mrs. Gobblestone’s voice, which sounded as if she smoked about a thousand cigarettes a day. If you never saw her face but only heard her voice, you would never guess she was a woman. Never seeing her face would of course be very fortunate, for her fiery-red curls, knobby nose, tomb-green eyes, and lipstick-smeared mouth are said to have reappeared in her students’ nightmares for years.
As a result of the dragon voice constantly interrupting Simon whenever he read out loud in school, he began to sweat and shake as soon as Mrs. Gobblestone called his name for reading. “Simon!” Her grating voice pronouncing his name felt like Caesar calling prisoners into the Coliseum, where lions would pounce on the prisoners and tear them to pieces.
Well, actually Simon had no idea what it felt like to be torn to pieces by lions; very few people do. But he could not imagine that being torn to pieces would feel any worse than reading to Mrs. Gobblestone. And who would not mumble and stutter and read monotonously and try to get the task over with as quickly as possible, when standing in front of snarling lions? Simon certainly did, because he was a reasonable and intelligent boy. Only someone too dull to notice the hostilities would have been able to read well in Mrs. Gobblestone’s presence.
Thus Mrs. Gobblestone went home each day and complained to her husband, “I wonder where our dear Germany will end up, Oswald. The young people of today can’t even read, and as much as I encourage them to improve, they never do. And their writing is completely unintelligible.” And she would shake her fiery-red locks and scratch her too-large nose. “I tell them as much, too—tell them that they need to print explanations next to their scrawls, if they expect me to decipher what they’ve written. But their writing only becomes worse as time goes by. The youth of today! Spoiled and brainless, I’m telling you!”
Her husband Oswald, who was a short bald man with thick glasses, would squint up at her and nod, “Yes, darling, yes. The youth of today. It is horrible.” He would never say more, because he feared his wife as much as her students did.
As did the teachers. They all moved around her like animals fearful of a voracious beast. She was, after all, the principal of the Engels Elementary School in the big harbor city of Hamburg, Germany, and it was unofficially called the “Gobblestone School.”
For Simon, this Monday morning had started out no worse than all other Monday mornings. As usual, he was sitting on an uncomfortable chair, trying to read out loud from a textbook placed on the much-too-high desk in front of him, while he was being shredded to pieces by the snarls from the front. Nothing unusual. This was what school was about. It prepared him to become a functional citizen later on who had managed the Art of the Pecking Order, which is the most important art form in our time.
But, oh, how different the Gobblestone School was from taking a book to bed at home and discovering what lay hidden between its covers! The reading was best at nighttime, when the weather outside was dark and rainy—occasionally interrupted, if Simon was really lucky, by lightning and thunder—and when all the lights were turned off, except for a little reading lamp.
Simon liked to read. Very much so. He had missed many a meal and many a night of sleep because his mother had not been able to pry him away from some gigantic tome. But he did not like to read at school, on this uncomfortable chair, underneath these horribly bright lights, and at this desk, which was so high that it had apparently been donated by a giant. He didn’t like the kind of texts they were reading, either.
“And when the mouse went into the house,” he was reading right now. How boring! No, more than boring: ridiculous! Didn’t they know that Simon had already read dozens, hundreds, gazillions of novels?
It was hard to believe, but this morning things actually got worse than the usual Monday mornings.
Mrs. Gobblestone was just interrupting Simon’s reading again with her thunderous voice when he felt something like a heat wave hit him from her direction. He looked up and thought he glimpsed the last flickers of a fire escaping her mouth.
“What do you think you’re staring at, boy?” Mrs. Gobblestone bellowed. “My face is not a computer screen! Put your nose back in your book, Simon! In your book!”
“Y-yes, Madam,” Simon stuttered and continued to read, thinking that a computer screen would have been a welcome change from her face.
A few seconds later, his eye again caught a bright flickering close to Mrs. Gobblestone’s head. This caused him to halt his reading, a move which brought on another tirade from the direction of the teacher’s desk.
“Simon! What the devil are you looking at?” Mrs. Gobblestone’s throaty voice roared through the classroom and reverberated against the walls.
This time, Simon knew there was no mistake. Fire had actually come out of Mrs. Gobblestone’s mouth. She had breathed fire. But that wasn’t all. Her teeth seemed different, too, with longer and sharper points than before. He could not help staring open-mouthed at the altered Mrs. Gobblestone, who now raised both of her arms in the air and threw another insult in Simon’s direction. And as she did so, her fingers suddenly sprouted long, curvy claws, and the hairs on her arms bristled visibly like those of a frightened cat.
What was going on? Simon blinked a few times to make sure this was really happening. His eyes were not deceiving him. Mrs. Gobblestone was clearly undergoing some sort of transformation, and unfortunately not a favorable one. This was really unnecessary, her being so horrible already. Simon began to whimper and draw back, unsuccessfully trying to find shelter in his uncomfortable chair.
There! Mrs. Gobblestone’s skin had changed color and was now a bright red. And her nose! Where was her nose? The nostrils were still there—very big, and heaving up and down like those of a running horse—but the rest of her nose had entirely disappeared. And her eyes! Oh no! Her awful eyes had grown in size beyond any reasonable proportion. And what was that? Something moved behind Mrs. Gobblestone’s large bottom, something that looked like a tail. Yes, Mrs. Gobblestone had a tail—a pointy tail with a spiky end, swinging back and forth like a weapon.
Simon’s chair screeched as he pushed back across the floor, and then he tipped over. For a moment, his arms flung about in the air. Then the chair fell over on him with a loud bang, and Simon bashed the side of his head against the hard floor. His glasses shattered and the classroom grew hazy, like paint in too much water.
Now Available! *The Gobblestone School: A Tale Inspired by the German Criminalization of Homeschooling*
Imagine a school turning into a dark fortress. Imagine all its teachers and students becoming a swarm of monkeys, witches, dinosaurs, and robots. Imagine the principal herself changing into a red, fire-spitting dragon.
Simon and Emily do not have to imagine such things, because in their school all of this really happens. The two children try to get behind the reason for the transformation and embark on a dangerous journey. Will they be able to break the wicked spell over their school? And will they manage to get their parents out of prison?
A satirical tale that brims with imagination and celebrates free education.
My wife Connie is doing deserts at the moment as a homeschooling topic with our children (well, mostly with our almost-seven-year-old Sophie, but our almost five-year-old Xander happily tags along).
I never knew deserts could be so exciting! Sophie and Xander are just bubbling over with interesting facts about deserts and its inhabitants. They march around the kitchen table imitating all the desert animals, running like camels, crawling like tortoises, and slithering like rattle snakes.
And they take a lot of initiative, too. Sophie built this vulture, for instance (a turkey vulture, to be more exact). It’s completely her own construction; no help or building guidelines whatsoever:
She even made a string to bind the vulture around her hand and a little pouch to feed it with:
Ah yes, I also took some initiative. I got out old pictures of when Daddy was in the desert, such as this one in Sinai when I worked as a volunteer in Israel for fifteen months in 1997/98:
This is what the cover of my new book The Gobblestone School looked like after I had just painted it. As you can see, I did the whole cover background – front, back, and spine – as one picture (click on the image to enlarge):
For instance, because universities like Yale allow you to “sit” in their lectures for free: http://oyc.yale.edu/.