On Reading of Old Books- A Philosopher Explains Why Homeschoolers Need Classic Literature

This classic was originally posted on our homeschool umbrella’s blog at mtsophiaideas.com.

A Philosopher Explains Why Homeschoolers Need Classic Literature

Micah is a homeschool graduate who holds a PhD in Philosophy and is popular for his Top 40 Philosophy podcast.

A Philosopher Explains Why Homeschoolers Need Classic Literature

A Philosopher Explains Why Homeschoolers Need Classic Literature

I think C.S. Lewis wrote an essay with that title once. So I decided to borrow it.

I was thinking, the other day, about the Classics. You all make your children read them during the school year, and maybe even over the summer. And I bet you’ve all heard some complaint to the effect of, “Why do we have to read this book? What’s so important about it?”
Where I teach philosophy, we are very much “into” the Classics.  We teach the Classic Philosophical Texts. That is our approach to teaching philosophy.

Other schools might focus on Classic Philosophical Problems, or Recent Philosophical Problems, or Contemporary Questions in Philosophy, or Historical Debates in Philosophy. And we do that too. It’s just our specialty is in teaching the Classic Texts.


But why focus on classic books?  What do you tell your children?

Here’s some of my thoughts on the subject:World Literature thm


The classics are, for the most part, very old, and very well-known. They’ve been popular for a very long time, in other words, and have been read by many, many historically-important people

When you sit down to read a classic book, therefore, you’re doing the same thing that countless other people have done before you, are doing right now, and will still be doing in the future.

You’re joining in an activity that spans the ages and the globe. You’re participating in an experience that is shared by thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people across time and space.


You’re having the same experience now as the George Washingtons, Winston Churchills, Abraham Lincolns, etc. of history had when you read Shakespeare today. You’re having the same experience now as Cicero and Julius Caesar and maybe even the Apostle Paul had when you read Homer.

Sense and Sensibility Lit Guide thmWhen you pick up a Jane Austen novel, you’re joining with a whole sea of unseen others who have picked up the same novel. When you read a C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien story, you’re living through the same events that many great people have lived through as they read the same book.


When you read classic books, therefore, you’re helping to tie history and the world together. You’re participating in the same activities and experiences that many others have. The experience you have, and activity in which you engage, of reading the story is the same as the experience others have had, and the activity in which others have engaged, around the world and through the years.

Furthermore, when you read classic books, you’re becoming part of a tradition. You’re participating in something larger than yourself.

____British Literature BUNDLE thm

And, when you read classic books, you’re enabling yourself to better understand the people who have shaped your world, because (a) you’ve now shared some of their experiences with them (the experience of reading the book you’re reading, and of living through the story with its characters), and (b) you now know the characters and plots and stories that helped them to see the structures in their world and to understand the events in their lives.

The stories we read and hear and watch begin to act as metaphors for the events in our lives. We begin to see our world through the stories we’ve experienced. The stories we’ve lived through help us to see the organization and structure of what we live through in the real world.

There’s an important sense, therefore, in which you cannot understand another person unless you understand the stories they see the world through.


American Lit thmSo, we read the Classics in order to participate in the connecting of different times and places with each other, in order to participate in a tradition larger than ourselves, and in order to better understand other people (especially those who have helped to shape our world).

But there are other reasons as well.A Philosopher Explains Why Homeschoolers Need Classic Literature

What do you think?

-Micah Tillman

A Philosopher Explains Why Homeschoolers Need Classic Literature


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Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at 7SistersHomeschool.com, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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