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Thread: Substituting? (wondering currently about Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves)

  1. #1
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    Substituting? (wondering currently about Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves)

    I have a high school senior who, because of other academic opportunities, missed out on some of the year 1 and 3 R literature. This year he's doing year 2 lit., but I am trying figure out how to replace some of the selections with a few real highlights from years 1 & 3 that he missed.

    We're already trimming/cutting to accommodate other parts of the English credit (comp. and speech), so I will have to find even more selections to substitute.

    My immediate question:
    This coming week would be Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves. My R-level daughter (sophomore) will be reading it; is it a real "keeper," or one that could move over for another important work (like Odyssey, Aeneid, Crime and Punishment, or Scarlet Letter)? He may be able to just read one or two of these works on Christmas break or over the summer, but he's working lots of hours as a server to save for college, and practicing lots of piano and percussion to get ready for auditions, so I'm not sure how realistic that is.

    If any of you has done year 2 Rhetoric and has suggestions for "DON'T MISS THIS" or "Crime and Punishment is more important than THIS," I'd love your suggestions.
    Thanks,
    Bonnie

  2. #2
    Hmmm.... that's a really good question, Bonnie. First off, may I congratulate you on your attitude? Way to go with not trying to do it all and not feeling guilty about cutting! :-D It sounds like your son is doing good and important things, so I'm glad you feel free to lighten up the Lit.

    Now, about Faerie Queene (aka Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, which is Book I of Faerie Queene)...

    Faerie Queene is pretty important. Of course, "important" is always a hugely relative thing. The real question is, how important is this work to YOUR goals for your son? Naturally that's difficult for you to answer, since you haven't read it (and few of us could say we have!). So let me try to give you a general idea in the hopes that it will help you clarify what "important to YOU" means.

    I would say that Faerie Queene about on a level with Pilgrim's Progress as one of the greatest CHRISTIAN literary works (and allegories) of all time. Yes, I really would. it's not as important as Homer or Dante or Shakespeare, but it is a profound allegory about the struggle for holiness through Christ, in the face of deceit and pride. It's pretty fine poetry too! In terms of literary history, the Faerie Queene was also an important innovation in that it borrowed the style of the Italian Renaissance Romances (a big deal in European literature for a couple hundred years in the late Middle Ages and during the Renaissance), but infused into that form an English allegory about holiness. That had never really been done before.

    So, as a significant moment in literary history, it's somewhat important. Also it is important as a Christian work. In terms of a student being able to say "Here are the great Christian works, and this is what they are like, and I know they exist and I can describe them and compare them to works from other worldviews and show what a biblical worldview looks like in a story".... for all that, Faerie Queene is pretty important because it's one of the true greats. However, being able to know and describe how a Christian worldview can be embodied in a story might matter most to a student who is interested in writing a Christian novel someday himself, or who plans to go into film or the arts. If your son is not on that track, then Faerie Queene is not as important (unless it might be encouraging to his own soul as a Christian, which I certainly found it to be!)

    Another factor, of course, is that it kinda depends on what else you "definitely don't want to miss" this year. For instance, if your son has already done plenty of Shakespeare, you might cut a week or two of that later on in Unit 2 and keep Faerie Queene. However, if he hasn't done Shakespeare, you might cut Faerie Queene in order to make sure he definitely has time for Shakespeare. Or, if your son is interested in politics, you might cut Faerie Queene in order to keep Gulliver's Travels (an important work for young politicians-in-the-making to know, I think, because of all its political satire).

    Maybe if you could explain where you think your son is going (to the extent that you can: I know we don't always have a good idea of that!), or what your goals for him are, then I could help you with a more tailored response?

    Christy Somerville
    Staff Author
    Director for Rhetoric Literature
    Lampstand Press

  3. #3
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    Christy,
    Thank you so much for taking the time to give such a thoughtful answer! While planning the year, I read about Faerie Queene and KNEW I wanted to include it (my hope - which is evaporating because my son works so many hours - was to read it aloud with my two high school kids during lunch/other breaks.) I also know - after 17 years of homeschooling - that trying to include every excellent thing doesn't always mean excellent results for our life, relationships, character, other commitments, etc. If you really do have the time to help me think through this for my son, here's some further information.

    He is planning a career in Music Business (studio producing, playing, songwriting). Much of his time right now is spent practicing to get ready for college music auditions. He enjoys reading and thinking about worldview (loved Universe Next Door), theology, how music can glorify God without being specifically Christian on its label or in its lyrics. He writes songs, and hopes to continue writing IN the culture without being OF the culture - wants to write lyrics that are consistent with a Christian worldview, but not necessarily for Christians. He's also very practical, doesn't enjoy theoretical arguments, and hates political discussions. He's looking forward to Shakespeare because he was pretty young last time we covered it. I would have cut some of the unit 1 literature in favor of some year 1 and 3 lit., but I broke my foot in the summer and - it's still hard for me to understand the connection - it ended up really cutting into my planning time. MY goals for him would be to help him taste the goodness of God, to find real joy in some great works, and to give him some grist for his songwriting mill (great artistry to imitate, stories that capture the heart and imagination - seems like he could learn some practical artistic lessons from such things). He's working a good number of hours outside of school to save money for college; He would appreciate if some of the literature I assign could be - well, dare I say it? - enjoyable to read. As I said, he's very practical, and the theoretical discussions about nuances that my older two thrived on are just not enjoyable to him. Sometimes they're necessary, but I also want to fan the flame of enjoyment through literature.
    Thanks for "listening." And please don't think that I don't value all the time and effort put into the literature curriculum as it's written! I so much appreciate it, and I do wish I could do it all.
    In His Grace,
    Bonnie

  4. #4
    It is my absolute pleasure to think through this with you. :-) Let's see what we have...

    1. Your son is gearing towards a career in Music Business. He has a creative side and is interested in writing lyrics that are not overtly Christian but do not in any way contradict a Christian worldview... so, maybe basic wisdom or common grace kind of stuff? Either way, he does fit my description of a person who is going into "the arts" and who may find Faerie Queene valuable. For instance, if you explained the assignment as "Here's a guy who took the style of poetry and storytelling that was popular at the time, and made it all about the quest for Christian holiness... what do you see in here that you might apply to taking a musical style and using it to embody a piece of wisdom that fits with a Biblical worldview...?" That could make it very interesting and "worthwhile" for him.

    2. Your son is also very practical, and theoretical discussions about (literary or worldviews) nuances don't interest him. So, again, a technique-based approach might interest him more. "How would you kidnap a style and put your own content into it, like this guy did?" might flip his diddle. However, no matter how you spin it, the fact is that older English literature like Faerie Queene is just plain good hard work to read. So, the question becomes "Is it worth the work?" Of course you CAN make your son do it, but you would LIKE him to enjoy it.

    That's where I understand you to be, and please correct me if I've got any of this wrong!

    Based on what you told me, and pretending for a minute that I understand your situation (which obviously I don't fully, but at least you know I'm trying! ;-) ), I might recommend what I call a "five-page test". This version of the Faerie Queene happens to be one of my favorites out of our entire booklist, because the editor is SO FUNNY! Within the first few pages, as he is explaining the rhythm of the poetry, he writes something like "This means that you can sing these lines to the tune of Gilligan's Island. Go ahead. Try it!" Throughout the book, he has fun and funny footnotes which I think really help to keep a reader engaged. His introduction likens the story to Star Wars... and the best part of all this is that he's not JUST funny: he's also accurate, a good scholar, insightful, and (I believe) coming from a biblical worldview. So, maybe you could give the book to your son, give him the "pitch" that I outlined about how this story might connect to his music interests, and ask him to read the first little chapter or "canto" (INCLUDING the introduction and PAYING ATTENTION to the footnotes, both of which are important). Then, maybe, ask him if he'd like to continue?

    If you like this approach, maybe let me know what he says and we can continue from there?

    By the way, I love how cut-and-dried homeschooling ISN'T, don't you? It's marvelous to have the freedom and flexibility to talk about these things on the forum, try something like a five-page test, come back and talk about it some more, ask the Holy Spirit what He thinks... you know? Obviously I don't want to take up your whole day with what is in the end a fairly minor decision, but I just enjoy that we can have this conversation. :-D And although I don't know why the Lord brought together a broken foot (ouch! :-/ ) with your son's school schedule, I'm excited to see what He will do with it!

    Thank you again for being an example of knowing when to cut stuff that matters less (in this case, a few weeks of Literature studies) for the sake of things that matter more! I do not feel at all unappreciated. I feel like you're putting first what goes first, which is what God is doing in your son's character and future career. It makes me love God more to see how He has brought you to a place where you can do this freely. It's so like Him to bring us into more and more freedom, isn't it?

    Christy

  5. #5
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    Thanks again for investing in my student. I hope it somehow ends up being an investment in many more.
    Your first reply pretty much had me hooked on Faerie Queene for this particular student; Now my dilemma is what else in Year 2 might he be able to miss in order to fit in something "more important?" (which, as you said, is somewhat subjective, depending upon the student.) For example, Gulliver's Travels may not be as important as the Odyssey for someone going into the arts, ??

    Your suggestions for how to approach Faerie Queene will be helpful. My son's not afraid of reading difficult things - he's had to do that all along. But me being reasonable in what I expect goes a really long way with him (as it does with most of our teens). Finding a balance between GOOD high expectations while being reasonable is always the challenge. I don't want to avoid pushing my kids to achieve what they "felt" was not possible. Nor do I want to provoke them to anger out of frustration with being expected to achieve the impossible.

    Thanks again!

    In Him,
    Bonnie

  6. #6
    Well, let's see. I am looking at the Teaching Rhetoric Literature chart for Y2, and I see there are several weeks you could cut. If you want to cut even more in order to include some Y1 and Y3 literature, WITH your student having a heavy work schedule to save money for college, I think that might be getting a little unrealistic. :-/ My honest recommendation (again, take this for what it's worth!) is that a student going into the arts would do well to go ahead and just do Y2, without trying to work in Y1 and Y3 material, except perhaps over the summer.

    Why? Because, honestly, each of these literary works are tied to/express worldviews, and it's gonna be really hard to jump around between Years 1, 2, and 3, and hope to really grasp what's going on with the worldviews of each of those time periods. Also, for what it's worth, I think Year 2 is a great year to get for a Christian student who is going into the arts, because most of the literature in Y2 shows how a biblical worldview and really Christianity as a practice can be embodied in literature. You don't get nearly as much of that in Y3, and none at all in Y1 (with the important exception of the Bible).

    So... have you considered just sticking to Y2?

    Merely a thought. :-)

  7. #7
    P.S. You may or may not know that each year repeats a basic and cumulative course of instruction in the same literary analysis techniques and categories. Therefore, if your son just buckles down and really DOES Y2, he would then have learned many of the techniques and categories that repeat in Y1 and Y3. This means that he could read (perhaps over the summer) a select booklist from Y1 and Y3, and read through the Teacher's Notes for each of those books by himself, getting a lot out of it because he understands the terminology and categories in which those books are discussed.

    By contrast, if he jumps around a lot between the three years, my concern is that he'll never nail down the process and terminology of literary analysis that would allow him to confidently approach any literary work in order to understand its worldview and appreciate its artistry. :-/

  8. #8
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    That's probably a really good choice. Thanks. He's been working with Poetics for literary analysis techniques and categories for several years now, so I'm not as concerned about that as I was about him missing certain great works that he missed (year 1 b/c we did it when he was still dialectic, and year 3 b/c he was just coming out of being a very slow reader and I had to cut a few extras for him at that point). Although I hate for him to graduate without having read the Odyssey or Crime and Punishment, maybe he can pick one or even both up over the summer. Thanks again for all the thoughts - they help not only with this specific issue, but also with ways to think through other little questions that come up from time to time.
    Bonnie

  9. #9
    I'm so glad it was helpful! I think that summer reading of the Odyssey and Crime and Punishment is reasonable. :-) God bless your year and your students... and your foot!

    Christy

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