"My, they look so nice on your shelf. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who actually reads them. Do you?"
When I began homeschooling,Charlotte Mason's third instrument of education, "Education is a Life", impressed me.
"Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child's inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food." Vol. 6, p. 109
Ideas! Everyday! Yes, I thought, this is definitely something I want to offer my children. When I saw that Volumes 2 and 3 of the Great Books set were titled, "The Great Ideas", I knew I was on to something. These volumes attempt to index and unify all the themes and ideas in volumes 4 to 54. Ideas such as Beauty, Democracy, Eternity, Habit, Judgment, Liberty, Science, Truth and Tyranny are just a wee sampling. We have used almost all of the volumes, starting with the Iliad of Homer and working through Augustine, Dante, Locke, Dostoevsky and all those in between. Plutarch and Shakespeare can be started during the elementary years, while most of the other titles are more suitable for junior high and high school.
An amazing characteristic of books with ideas is that you will go back to them over and over again. Ideas keep you thinking. They help you see what you don't know. The Great Books fit this description.
"...the fact that much and varied humane reading, as well as human thought expressed in the forms of art, is, not a luxury, a tit-bit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life, which they must have in abundant portions and at regular periods. This and more is implied in the phrase, "The mind feeds on ideas and therefore children should have a generous curriculum." Vol. 6, p. 111
Back to my guest at the bookshelf.
I finally answered, "Why, yes, we actually use these books quite a bit. They're packed with ideas." And now he knows someone who uses them.
Grace to boot,
*(Yes, historical fiction can be challenging, is important and may have ideas- that's not my point here:-)