A message from our Director of Educational Development, Dr. Amy Allen
As a child, a book I read over and over was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. As a classroom teacher, I continued to read it year after year. At The Academy, we use this book as one piece of a unit about the Renaissance. It serves as a great bridge to teach in an interdisciplinary fashion, linking literature with fine arts and history.
As I’ve reread this book as an adult, I realized how much I identified with the strong female lead in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Claudia was the oldest of many children, as was I, and was often tasked with the most mundane chores, as was I. She was adventurous, liked to travel, and was not very frugal. She was also a planner. One quote from the book stands out: “Besides, once she had made up her mind to go, she enjoyed the planning almost as much as she enjoyed spending money. Planning long and well was one of her special talents.” This sentence could have been written about me, and if you ever have the opportunity to see one of my vacation itineraries, I’m sure you’ll agree. Though I didn’t see it as a child, I’m sure my identification with Claudia is one of the reasons I loved this book so much.
In addition to The Mixed-Up Files, as a grammar student at The Academy, your student reads more than 40 classic works of literature. Weaving these stories into the story of human history year after year is a key component of classical education for many reasons, and the literature we read at The Academy is chosen with these reasons in mind.
First, reading good literature is formative for young students. It forms the human soul. Regardless of whether a book was written with a specific moral in mind, the ability to experience life from a perspective other than your own can be morally formative if the story is told beautifully. When reading these stories in the classical classroom, students evaluate the actions and motivations of the characters and consider the virtue of these actions. Building on this idea, classic books give us a window into different cultures, worlds, and perspectives of history. When students read books with strong ideas, they exercise their mind, and even if you don’t agree with those ideas, there is still a benefit. In grappling with ideas that are different from your own, you discover truth. Finally, as alluded to in the opening paragraph, when our students read literature, they find themselves in the pages and begin to better understand who they are – and in turn, better understand man as a whole. Literature mirrors the glories and flaws of human nature… and while we find ourselves in books, we also find the selves we hope to be.