A Plutarchish quote

In Beauty Will Save the World, Gregory Wolfe includes a quote from Stephen J. Tonsor, from an essay called “Myth, History and the Problem of Desacralized Time.” There’s a bit I especially like for its relevance to the study of Plutarch’s Lives:

“We think in terms not of scientific formulations and predictions but of alternatives, the baffling interplay of fate and freedom, of great and surprising actions and means and disappointing motives. The creative and innovating action, the power of love and self-sacrifice, and the tragedy of misspent lives and wasted opportunities are the great concern of historical study.”

A liberal education–is dangerous

On the top of my reading pile this week is Gregory Wolfe’s book Beauty Will Save the World. It’s on the top not only because it’s worthwhile, but because I get only three weeks with it before it returns to its home, mysteriously referred to only as E.P.L.

In the chapter “Christian Humanism: A Faith for All Seasons,” Wolfe quotes the scholar Erasmus:

“‘I absolutely dissent,’ Erasmus wrote, ‘from those people who don’t want the holy scriptures to be read in translation by the unlearned–as if, forsooth, Christ taught such complex doctrine that hardly anyone outside a handful of theologians could understand it, or as if the chief strength of the Christian religion lay in people’s ignorance of it.”

Erasmus may be talking about the Bible, but the same can be said of Plutarch. Or of Charlotte Mason’s books.

Last night we watched a first-season episode of Downton Abbey, where Lord Grantham was bemoaning the fact that his chauffeur had such extreme (and dangerous) political views. When Lord G. hired the man, a couple of episodes back, he invited him to make use of the law and history books in his library. I guess Lord G. didn’t really expect a chauffeur to understand them…or use them.

(Also in last night’s episode, the young ladies were told by their grandmother that they had no right to an opinion until they were married, and then their husbands would tell them what their opinions should be.)

Music is meant to be played; stories are meant to be told; and if education is a life, it’s meant for anyone willing to listen. Like the banquet in the parable, some who “earned” their way in didn’t care to come; the door needs to stay open for the rest.


“Minds” is part of a giveaway basket

Tricia Hodges at The Curriculum Choice blog is including a Kindle copy of Minds More Awake in a basket of homeschool resources, part of the Back to Homeschool Gift Baskets event at the iHomeschool Network. There are over thirty different baskets to be won in this event, with prizes provided by a large group of homeschool bloggers; Tricia’s also includes resources for teaching art, science, and nature.  You can find the entry details in her post.  (The other baskets look interesting too!)

What’s in a name? (The Plutarch Project)


” Writing studies for Plutarch’s Lives is a bit like watching my husband restore a 1934 Crosley Fiver radio. (It was one of the first radios you could just bring home from the store, plug in, and listen to.) …Plutarch doesn’t need me to make his Lives work. I am the first one to insist that I am not a classical scholar… About the only thing that qualified me to take this project on is that, like my husband, I like to take covers off and see what’s inside. What I have tried to do is make Plutarch more of a plug-in model than a workbench project.” (From the introduction to The Plutarch Project)

When I first got the title idea for Minds More Awake, I searched  online to see if other people had used that one much before me.  I found the phrase a few times in older books, but there wasn’t anything current, so I used it without worry.

Putting the Plutarch’s Lives studies (well, three of them) into book form was a let’s-do-this job that came up quickly, and needed a title quickly. Thinking of it as The Plutarch Project, though, wasn’t new. In our workbenchy family, a project isn’t just something you throw together for a teacher after a stop at the encyclopedia (I did a few of those). It’s something that starts with the spark of an idea, perseveres through the messy middle, and ends up with (in my husband’s case) something shiny and playable, or (in mine),  something you can read.

And I really wasn’t expecting that anyone else out there would have put those two particular words together. Yes, there are all kinds of projects, but Plutarch Project? I figured not, and put it out of my mind until it was almost too late.

It turns out there are at least two other Plutarch Project entities in the world (besides a few documents labelled “Plutarch Project for Mr. HistoryTeacher’s Class”). One is a Greek heritage group. Another has more of an academic focus, although it’s not specifically about Plutarch.

I thought I knew some history, but I didn’t know Publicola; I didn’t know what a consul was; I was even vague on the difference between the Roman Republic and the Empire. Still, I had the whole summer before the next term started, so I printed out and read through Plutarch’s “Life of Publicola.” I read it again. Then I read it again. I wrote down questions, circled words, and underlined place names. The story of Rome and its founding fathers started to make sense to me; but would my ten-year-old get anything out of it? (Minds More Awake)

Would I have to change the title to avoid confusion? I didn’t know what else to change it to. Plutarch Studies from the Electronics Workbench didn’t quite cut it. There were a couple of other more serious suggestions that could have worked. But now you know why this Plutarch has become a longterm “project,” both for our family and for others who enjoy the Lives.

So at this point and until further notice, the title is staying put.

The bonus book with the long name

When you’ve just finished writing and publishing a book, what’s the first thing you do next?

Write another book?

If Minds More Awake seemed like planning a wedding, this project is more like an elopement.  (Can you do both at the same time?)

The Plutarch Project, Volume One: Marcus Cato the Censor, Philopoemen, and Titus Flamininus is in the editing stages, and we’re looking at a September 1st release date. For those of you scratching your heads over the title,  those are the three AmblesideOnline Plutarch studies scheduled for this year. They are available free on the AO website, and will continue to be available there, but there have often been requests to put them into a Kindle or book format. So I’m doing both.

Stay tuned for more updates on this one. In the meantime, thank you to all who have already ordered copies of Minds More Awake!