Suggestions for Educating Yourself (It's Never Too Late)

1) What It Means

Becoming well educated doesn't mean getting something out of the way in four years; it means learning how to learn for the rest of your life. It means learning a habit of mind. You won't be well educated in four years, but in ten you'll be way down the road, and in twenty, you'll be a wholly different person than you are now in your mental capacity and understanding. So don't worry about how long it'll take. Finishing isn't the goal. The goal is getting started now, and then becoming a permanent student of history, of literature, of Scripture, of learning. Becoming well-educated also means learning a certain body of knowledge - the great books containing the great ideas that have shaped our culture and fed men's minds and souls for thousands of years. It means reading old books.
2) Where To Start
This being being the case, the starting point isn't as critical as you might think. As C. S. Lewis said of English literature, any part of it eventually leads to the rest anyway. Don't be too worried about the order in which you read or learn things. It's better to shift to areas or books that interest you more, than to keep plodding along in something that's going to ruin your desire to learn. Find a list of great books (see #4 below) and begin reading. Skip around if you like. Don't worry about trying to read them in order unless you are the kind of person who can make yourself stick with that method. If you're not, don't fight it; jump ahead for awhile.
3) What Kind of Books To Read
The best education is one based on "primary sources", not secondary ones, so read the old books. I *strongly* suggest you find, first of all, a copy of C. S. Lewis's book God in the Dock: Essays in Theology and Ethics and read the essay in it called "On the Reading of Old Books". This is a wonderful essay about the value of old books, the original books, as opposed to modern ones *about* the old ones. In other words, he argues, we should read Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, or Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War or John Bunyan's Pilrim's Progress or even Winston Churchill's History of the English-Speaking People, instead of reading condensed versions or modern retellings or modern (Heaven help us!) history textbooks. One very important reason for doing this is that you are trying to learn how to feed yourself and avoid being spoonfed by someone else.
4) Book Lists to Get You Started
Find a copy of Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book. Read the introduction; read the last chapter; look at his list of the world's greatest books that everybody should read, etc. Read the whole book carefully. It's the best book I know of for learning how to *really* read books carefully to learn from them. They should use this book in high schools and colleges, but they don't. More's the pity. Another book in a similar vein (a bit shorter, a bit easier to tackle) written by a Christian is James W. Sire's How to Read Slowly. This book focuses on how to read different kinds of books and how to determine the worldview underlying a book. As a place to start, you can use the list of great books on the Schola Bookstore page

Here is another list - the precursor to New St. Andrews College and Schola Classical Tutorials - it's called the Free Academy of Foundations and was composed by Evan Wilson, Wes Callihan, and Doug Wilson in the early 1980s. It's been widely used by many (college students on a career track, housewives, those already in a career) who wish to continue learning and growing and understanding. Right click on either of the below links, then left click on Save Target As and save the file to your desktop or other folder.

Free Academy in list format (print out as a simple stack of lists)  
Free Academy in booklet format (print out and assemble as a booklet)
5) Method and Attitude
As you pursue your own reading education, read a wide variety of things: read histories, novels, poetry (lots of poetry! and read it aloud!), essays, plays, biographies, short stories, theology, philosophy, science, etc. Some areas you'll find you love--read more there. Other areas you won't like so much--don't worry; read what you find valuable, it'll still be beneficial, but don't kill your love of learning by dragging yourself through what you hate. You have to learn to find the line between self-discipline in studying what you know is valuable even though you don't enjoy it (you teach your child this, too!), and unprofitable self-torture.
Let the books you read be your guide to other books. For instance, if you read C. S. Lewis's Surprised by Joy, you will run across many titles which he mentions that you will want to read. As you read them, they will mention books you will want to read, as so on. This will obviously take you *backward* in history, and that's all to the good.

* Read "Classical Education and the Homeschool" by Doug Wilson, Doug Jones, and Wes Callihan. It explains and describes briefly but practically what classical Christian education is and how to approach it.

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