Sunday, June 14, 2009

Review: For the Love of Literature

I met Maureen Wittmann at a Catholic homeschool curriculum fair and found her to be a delightful lady, full of anecdotes and ideas. Her book, For the Love of Literature, reflects her wisdom and enthusiasm fully--it posits that you can teach practically every subject on the curriculum using good literature.

The book begins with some useful introductory insights on how to use your local library, how to build your home library, and how to design a literature study unit. It also provides a basic introduction to classical education and the Charlotte Mason method--both of which mesh well with Ms. Wittmann's ideas.

The bulk of this book, however, is made up of a literary guide broken down by subject. Areas covered include art and music, math, history, and science. The history section alone covers over 100 pages and is replete with hundreds of excellent suggestions. A kid who worked their way through all of the books listed would have a better grasp of history than 99% of adults.

But of course, this reading list is not intended to be followed from start to finish. Indeed, unless one were a voracious speed-reader, it would be a nearly impossible task. The strength of the book is that it can be used as a handy reference that the homeschooling parent can dip into as needed.

Imagine--rather than teaching the Elizabethan period by a dry recitation of facts and dates, you start your child off reading, Red Hugh, Prince of Donegal; or you begin a study of the crusades by having the child read an exciting tale like The Blue Gonfalon at the First Crusade. Using this method is sure to stimulate interest while helping the child build their reading skills at the same time.

Simply put, if you're a homeschooling parent, this book is a must-have--a gem. I fully endorse this method of teaching because it worked on me as a kid. Even though I was in traditional private Catholic school, I recall clearly how the books that made the greatest impression on me were literary works that put major figures into their historical context. This often inspired in me a desire to do more research on the figure in question or their time period and was the beginning of my love of history in general.